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Newsline: US Senate bill urges 3 new embassies in Pacific island nations

A bipartisan group of senators will introduce legislation to establish three new embassies in the Pacific Islands region to strengthen America’s relationships there and counter China’s growing influence. The “Pacific Islands Embassy Act,” co-led by Sens. JON OSSOFF (D-Ga.) and TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.), would establish new U.S. missions in Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tonga. As of today, America has a Fiji-based ambassador who concurrently serves as the representative to Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru, while the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is also accredited to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The goal of the bill is to have more U.S. diplomats directly engage more Pacific Islands’ governments — closing the gap between Beijing’s presence and America’s. “Strong U.S. diplomacy in the Pacific is essential. We must immediately establish a robust physical diplomatic presence in these strategic island nations,” Ossoff said in a statement. “Frankly, it is malpractice that the United States didn’t take this step a decade and a half ago. Time is of the essence.” (https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/07/29/senate-bill-urges-3-new-embassies-in-pacific-island-nations-00048693) The measure requires the secretary of State to inaugurate the missions no later than two years after the bill is signed into law. The top diplomat must also by that time recommend to the president who should serve as ambassadors in those embassies. The act authorizes $40.2 million in FY 2023 to construct the embassies — the same amount Ossoff asked appropriators to green light back in May — as well as $3 million in FY 2024 to maintain the buildings. The future of the bill is unclear, but it underscores the growing concern in Congress about America’s faltering presence in the Pacific islands.

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