(Bloomberg) -- The US opened a new embassy in the South Pacific as the Biden administration ramps up its diplomatic presence in a region that has been courted heavily by geopolitical rival China. 

The new US mission in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara builds on “efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday.

The US and its allies, particularly Australia, have tried to increase influence among the poor, small island states in the Southern Pacific such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu. That has included aid, including Covid-19 vaccines, and pledges to help them combat illegal fishing in the vast waters around the far-flung capitals, as well as mitigate the impact of climate change. 

The US launched a diplomatic blitz with the Solomon Islands in particular after a draft security agreement leaked last year that appeared to grant China’s navy a safe harbor. The island’s government has insisted it has no intention of allowing a Chinese military base in its territory.

President Joe Biden hosted more than a dozen leaders of the island nations for a special summit in Washington in September, with the Solomon Islands eventually signing onto a partnership agreement after early indications that it would refuse.

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