The Pacific island nation of Fiji has joined an Indo-Pacific economic initiative recently launched by the United States to balance Beijing's rising economic clout in the region, the White House said Thursday.

U.S. President Joe Biden has welcomed Fiji's decision to become the 14th country, and the first in the Pacific islands, to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, according to the press release.

(From L) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a photo session at the start of the launch event of the Indo-Pacific economic framework, or IPEF, in Tokyo on May 23, 2022. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The announcement comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi touched down on the Solomon Islands on Thursday, marking the start of an eight-country tour of the Pacific islands.

Fears have been mounting about Beijing's increasing military clout in the region after the two countries signed a controversial pact last month that reportedly allows the deployment of Chinese police, military and other armed personnel, as well as the docking of its ships.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed hopes the IPEF would deepen bilateral ties between the United States and Fiji, saying in a statement that IPEF member countries "are united in our commitment to a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region" that transcends geographical differences.

"(The) IPEF will help to drive sustainable growth for all our economies," he added.

The framework was established by Biden on Monday during his visit to Tokyo with 13 countries including Japan, India and South Korea participating in the deal.

It centers on four pillars -- fair and resilient trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption -- with member countries able to choose to participate only in certain components of the framework.

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