The United States is expected to open a new embassy in Tonga later this month, a senior diplomat said Tuesday, as Washington and its allies seek to strengthen their diplomatic presence in the Indo-Pacific amid China's widening military and economic influence in the region.

The announcement about Tonga, a Pacific nation that consists of about 170 islands, came after the United States earlier this year reopened an embassy in the Solomon Islands, which switched diplomatic recognition to China from self-governing Taiwan in 2019 and signed a wide-reaching security agreement with Beijing last year.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, touched on the schedule of the forthcoming opening of its diplomatic mission while attending a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In addition to Tonga and the Solomon Islands, the United States has said it plans to open embassies in Vanuatu and Kiribati, a Micronesian island nation that also shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, in 2019.

File photo shows the U.S. State Department building in Washington in 2009. (AP/Kyodo)