President Joe Biden will host a second summit with Pacific island leaders this week, part of a U.S. charm offensive to block further Chinese inroads into a strategic region Washington has long considered its own backyard.
During the three-day meeting, the U.S. will announce diplomatic recognition for two Pacific islands, promise new money for infrastructure, including to improve Internet connectivity via undersea cables, and honor regional leaders at an NFL game.
Biden held an inaugural summit with the islanders at the White House a year ago and was due to meet them again in Papua New Guinea in May. That plan was scrapped when a U.S. debt- ceiling crisis forced Biden to cut short an Asia trip.
At last year’s summit with 14 Pacific island nations, Biden’s administration pledged to help islanders fend off China’s “economic coercion” and a joint declaration resolved to strengthen their partnership, saying they shared a vision for a region where “democracy will be able to flourish.”
The White House said this year’s effort would focus on priorities including climate change, economic growth, sustainable development, public health and countering illegal fishing.
The United States will also officially recognize the Cook Islands and another small nation, Niue, for the first time during the summit.
In Baltimore on Sunday, the leaders will see a Coast Guard cutter in the harbor and be briefed on combating illegal fishing by the Commandant of the Coast Guard, an official said.
The leaders will also attend Sunday’s football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts. Dozens of NFL players are of Pacific Islander heritage.