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No invite for Cook Islands in Pacific nations meeting

Monday 5 September 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in National

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No invite for Cook Islands in Pacific nations meeting
United States President Joe Biden. 22090414

US President Joe Biden will host leaders of Pacific Island nations in Washington later this month but the Cook Islands didn’t get the invite.

The summit will take place on September 28-29.

The White House said the summit will reflect the United States' broadening and deepening cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection, and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

An administration official said the Biden Administration had invited 12 Pacific Islands countries, including Solomon Islands, which in April struck a security pact with China, heightening Washington's concern about Beijing's growing influence.

The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji were invited, as well as the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, which Taiwan counts among its 14 diplomatic allies.

The US has not invited the Cook Islands, Niue, New Caledonia or French Polynesia.

The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Tepaeru Herrmann, early last month said: “The Cook Islands Government would welcome elevated and expanded engagement with the Government of the United States, including directly with President Biden.”

However, at the time Herrmann said the Cook Islands government had not had contact from the US.

The White House did not provide details on which countries had confirmed attendance for the summit, which had been signalled as a priority by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during a trip to the region in August.

During that trip, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare skipped a planned appearance with Sherman at a World War II commemoration, and later that month his government did not respond to a US Coast Guard vessel's request to refuel.

The United States has stepped up engagement with Pacific Islands countries under Biden, sending several senior official delegations and announcing plans to open embassies in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Tonga.

- Additional reporting from RNZ Pacific