The US State Department said in a statement that the new embassy in the capital, Nuku’alofa, officially opened on Tuesday, and the move will be followed by the arrival of more diplomatic staff.
The United States has announced the opening of an embassy in the Kingdom of Tonga, while the dispute over influence with China escalates in the South Pacific.
The Tonga archipelago, with a population of about 100,000, is the latest in a series of Pacific island nations targeted by a campaign to revamp US diplomacy in the region.
The US State Department said in a statement that the new embassy in the capital, Nuku’alofa, was officially opened on Tuesday, and the move will be followed by the arrival of more diplomatic staff. “This inauguration symbolizes the renewal of our relationship and underscores the strength of our bilateral ties to the people of Tonga and to our partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” the statement read.
The State Department indicated a “possible appointment” of a US ambassador residing in Tonga. The United States also plans to open embassies in Vanuatu and Kiribati.
The United States reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands in February, 30 years after it closed.
The United States has been the dominant military power in the South Pacific since World War II, but the region has increasingly become an arena for competition for commercial, political and military influence between the powers.
China is also asserting a rising military power in the same region by expanding its diplomacy, investment, police training, and security deals.
The United States and its allies were taken by surprise when China reached a secret security agreement last year with the Solomon Islands.
Despite the Solomon Islands’ denials, US and Australian officials have expressed fears that the agreement will open up vast areas of water for the Chinese military.