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Biden to host Pacific Islander leaders this week

President Joe Biden is hosting Pacific Island leaders as a part of a two-day summit that begins Monday, September 25. The U.S. hopes to use the summit as an opportunity to combat China’s growing influence.

According to Reuters, leaders gathered for an 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum. Before starting the forum the Biden administration announced that the U.S. would recognize the Cook Islands and Niue as sovereign and independent states.

“The United States’ recognition of the Cook Islands, and the establishment of diplomatic relations will not only strengthen the ties between our nations, it will help ensure that our shared future is more secure, more prosperous, and more free — for our people and people around the world,” Biden said, according to Al Jazeera.

Biden offered $40 billion in aid to the Pacific Islands during a meeting with leaders at the White House, The Guardian reports. However, a U.S. official told Reuters he meant to say $40 million.

“The United States committed to ensuring an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous and secure. We’re committed to working with all the nations around this table to achieve that goal,” Biden said at the welcoming ceremony, according to The Guardian.

The forum included leaders from: Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Leaders toured a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore on Sunday before the forum. They also attended an NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts.

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