Caroline Kennedy has confirmed she will travel to Solomon Islands next week after being sworn in as the new United States ambassador to Australia.
- Caroline Kennedy is expected to fly to Solomon Islands next week to mark the Battle of Guadalcanal
- The new ambassador suggested the US would continue to expand its footprint in the Pacific
- Ms Kennedy attended a smoking ceremony with other US embassy staff
The ambassador presented her credentials to the Governor-General on her first full day in the job.
She is expected to fly to Solomon Islands late next week — along with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman — to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The ambassador’s father, former US president John F Kennedy, served as a patrol boat captain in Solomon Islands during World War II and famously helped to save the lives of US crew members after the ship sank.
Kennedy and the other survivors were later spotted and rescued from a nearby island by two Solomon Islander scouts.
The commemoration will also be a reminder of the strategic importance of Solomon Islands, which earlier this year signed a deeply contentious security pact with China.
Strategic competition has been ratcheting up in the Pacific as Beijing tries to expand its economic, police and security ties with a host of countries in the region.
The Biden administration has stressed America’s historical ties to the Pacific — particularly from World War II — and has also made a series of announcements to expand its own presence, with the US Vice-President Kamala Harris unveiling plans to open new embassies and draft a new national strategy to corral US resources in the Pacific more effectively.
Ambassador yet to meet Anthony Albanese
Caroline Kennedy would not be drawn on the details of her trip to Solomon Islands when asked about the visit during a press conference in Canberra, but suggested the United States would continue to expand its footprint.
“I’m sure there will be many announcements to come in many areas, but I think that maybe we’ll take this up next week,” she said.
The ambassador was welcomed to Canberra in a smoking ceremony, walking through the smoke along with dozens of US embassy staff members.
She spent several minutes speaking intently to Ngunnawal elders after being gifted message sticks and handing over a copy of her book, Poems to Learn by Heart.
“You here represent the oldest civilisation on earth and I think the traditions, cultures and values you are passing on really have so much to teach the rest of us as we seek to reconcile our differences in this fractured world and face the great challenge of caring for our environment,” the ambassador said.
But she only gave brief and general answers when asked about her priorities for her first meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the nuclear submarine partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom under AUKUS.
The ambassador said she was “really looking forward” to meeting Mr Albanese on Wednesday and called AUKUS a “really significant” partnership, but said she would only be in a position to talk in more detail about the issue down the track.
“There are many announcements to come in coming weeks, so I think it’s best to let that unfold and then maybe we’ll talk about them as they do,” she said.