In this file photo dated Jan 12, 2022, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman addresses a press conference following a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. JOHN THYS / AFP)
SYDNEY – A senior US diplomat will travel to Samoa on Thursday on a multi-leg trip to Pacific Island countries intended to demonstrate reengagement by the United States with the region.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to Samoa and then Tonga, where she will be the most senior US official to visit, before attending World War II commemorations in the Solomon Islands.
Sherman will discuss plans to open US embassies in Tonga and the Solomon Islands and the return of the US Peace Corps aid programme, the State Department said.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to Samoa and then Tonga, where she will be the most senior US official to visit, before attending World War II commemorations in the Solomon Islands
A high-level US delegation to the Solomon Islands to commemorate a major World War II battle between the United States and Japan will proceed, despite disruptions to tourists caused by the sudden cancellation of many commercial flights, officials said on Thursday.
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The suspension of flights to Honiara by Fiji Airways for safety concerns will see dozens of US tourists miss the commemoration on Saturday, a tourism official said. Fiji Airways is one of two airlines regularly servicing the Solomons.
Sherman and US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, whose fathers served in the Solomon Islands, will attend the US government ceremony for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The anniversary was expected to bring a tourism boom to the Solomon Islands, which last month re-opened its borders after the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of tourism income during border closures across the Pacific islands had a severe impact on the region's fragile economies.
Fiji Airways said in a statement it had suspended its flights to the Solomon Islands because of worry about the condition of the runway.
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Solomon Islands tourism officials said the suspension was "a blow", and they were trying to re-route tourists booked to attend the World War II events.
Tourism Solomons head of sales Fiona Teama said the events would go ahead, although the tour group travelling from the United States would miss the US government's commemoration on Saturday because they would not arrive in time.
US and Australian government aircraft carrying officials would continue to land at Honiara's Henderson Airport, she said.
Sherman will also visit Australia and New Zealand.
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