The United States opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands on Wednesday in a bid to increase its diplomatic presence, as China's military and economic influence widens in the Indo-Pacific region.
The development came as the United States and its allies, including Japan and Australia, are vigilant of China's expanding ties with Pacific island nations, and stepping up efforts to revitalize cooperation with them.
"The opening of the embassy builds on our efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors, connect United States programs and resources with needs on the ground, and build people-to-people ties," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The United States previously had an embassy in the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara, but it was closed in 1993, partly because of budget cuts.
The Solomon Islands have been signaling a tilt toward China and switched diplomatic recognition from self-governing Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.
The small but strategically important nation also signed a wide-reaching security agreement with China last year.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday that Beijing has "no objection" to the development of relations between other nations and Pacific island countries.
China stands ready to work with all interested parties to contribute to the prosperity of the region and "has no intention of competing with anyone for influence" in the Pacific island area, or "engaging in a geopolitical contest," Mao said.
The growing influence of China prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to host a first-ever summit with the leaders of the Pacific island nations in Washington in September and commit $810 million in support for them.
The Biden administration has also decided to establish embassies in Tonga and Kiribati, a Micronesian island nation that has also shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its territory.
Japan, U.S. vow to enhance ties with Solomon Islands amid China clout
Solomon Island aid improves China's image amid security pact concerns
U.S., Japan, Australia show concern over China-Solomons security pact