The U.S. will be opening an embassy in Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific. Experts believe the move by the Biden administration comes as a means “to blunt China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific,” The Associated Press reported.

“Consistent with the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a permanent diplomatic presence in Vanuatu would allow the U.S. government to deepen relationships with Vanuatu officials and society,” the State Department said in a statement.

The embassy located on Port Vila marks the fifth diplomatic mission of the U.S. in the South Pacific region to be opened or announced in the past three years, per the AP.

Vanuatu and calls to address climate change

Vanuatu has a population of 319,000 people across 80 different islands, according to Reuters.

“The United States currently maintains diplomatic relations with the Government of Vanuatu but does not have an embassy in Vanuatu,” according to the State Department’s statement.

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Last year, Vanuatu was hit hard by storms that forced residents to move “dozens of villages to higher ground,” and the island nation has been notably outspoken on “demanding greater effort by other countries to cut climate-wrecking pollution from burning coal, oil and natural gas,” per the AP.

Where else in the South Pacific is the U.S. opening embassies?

Earlier this year, the U.S. reopened an embassy in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific “after a 30-year absence,” per Reuters.

It has also made announcements about opening embassies in Kiribati and Tonga in the South Pacific region, Voice of America reported.

The Maldives is the next country where the U.S. will be opening an embassy soon, per the AP.

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