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US ‘disappointed’ Solomon Islands leader Sogavare to miss White House summit

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– The U.S. is disappointed Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will not attend a Pacific Islands summit with U.S. President Joe Biden next week, the White House said on Saturday.

Biden will host a second summit with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum at the White House on Monday as part of his efforts to step up engagement with a region where the U.S. is in a battle for influence with China.

The summit with the 18-member forum will take place on Monday and Tuesday in Washington.

“We are disappointed that PM Sogavare of the Solomons does not plan to attend,” a Biden Administration official said.

The Australian broadcaster ABC reported Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele will attend the summit instead.

The Solomon Islands Prime Ministers Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Sogavare spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in New York, where he praised China’s development cooperation as “less restrictive, more responsive and aligned to our national needs”, and said Beijing was its lead infrastructure partner.

Sogavare said he reached an understanding with President Xi Jinping during a July visit to China for Solomon Islands to achieve development through China’s policies, including the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Security Initiative.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman also will not attend the meeting, an official from his office told on Friday, because all Vanuatu government lawmakers need to be in parliament on Monday for a no-confidence vote.

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