US eyes massive ramp-up in diplomatic personnel and spending at new Pacific island embassies

Jul 13, 2023, 11:59 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department says it plans a massive increase in diplomatic personnel and spending for facilities at new U.S. embassies in the Pacific islands as the Biden administration forges ahead with efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

In a notice sent to Congress this week, the department said it envisions hiring up to 40 staffers over the next five years for each of four recently opened or soon-to-be-opened embassies in the Pacific. Those include an embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands, that opened in January; an embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, that opened in May and planned embassies in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and in Tarawa, Kiribati. Currently there are only two temporary American staffers each in Honiara and Nuku’alofa.

At each of those posts, the department says it will spend at least $10 million for start-up, design and construction costs. Only a portion of that amount is included in the administration’s current budget proposal and the department said that in addition to that amount, each new embassy will need $3.3 million a year to cover upkeep and operating costs.

The update to Congress, which was sent on Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, comes as the administration moves to boost the U.S. presence in the Pacific in response to China’s increasing assertiveness there.

It also came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Indonesia for a southeast Asian regional security forum and planned an extended Pacific trip at the end of July.

The notice pointed out that China has permanent diplomatic facilities in eight of the 12 Pacific island nations that the United States recognizes and said the U.S. needs to catch up.

“The lack of a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in more heavily populated (Pacific islands) undermines U.S. efforts to engage as an indispensable partner and Pacific power during a time of heightened strategic competition,” it said. “To address this challenge, the United States has moved to dramatically increase its diplomatic and development engagement with the region.”

In the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Kiribati, initial staffing at the embassies will be limited to four resident American diplomats, including an ambassador, and five local staffers along with an as-yet undetermined number of local security guards, the department said.

However, it added that projected staffing at each embassy over the next five years could jump to between 30 and 40 American and local employees “as facility space allows.”

At the same time, the department said that attracting experienced and competent staff to fill the new posts will be difficult without offering incentives to prospective employees, suggesting that Congress may need to allocate more money if the U.S. is to remain competitive with China in the region.

“Recruitment for new and existing positions remains extremely difficult without a commensurate compensation package to attract talented officers asked to serve in remote locations subject to extreme weather phenomena, poor telecommunication systems, and inadequate medical and schooling facilities,” it said.

“Rectifying this situation would require an investment in resources and creative solutions to attract and retain a cadre of Pacific experts,” it said. “The United States needs to significantly increase staffing resources if it plans to robustly engage in the Pacific islands to preserve an open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

The notification did not elaborate on what those resources or creative solutions might be.

United States News

Associated Press

Supreme Court rejects challenge to new horse racing anti-doping rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge from Republican-controlled states to a horse racing safety law that has led to national medication and anti-doping rules. The justices left in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the law and rejected claims that Congress gave too much power to the Horseracing Integrity […]

10 minutes ago

Associated Press

Rail bridge collapses during Midwest flooding as a heat wave persists across much of the US

Millions of Americans sweated through a scorching weekend as temperatures soared across the U.S., while residents were rescued from floodwaters that forced evacuations across the Midwest. One person died during flooding in South Dakota, the governor said. From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the West to California, public officials […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

17 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

19 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men interfered and drew firearms, according to social media posts from the agency. The man who died was in his mid-twenties, police said. Five […]

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

US eyes massive ramp-up in diplomatic personnel and spending at new Pacific island embassies