US to open embassy in Tonga amid China's growing regional influence

A senior US official says the United States is on track to open an embassy in the Pacific island nation of Tonga this month.

The move comes as the administration of President Joe Biden is seen as increasing its involvement in the region to counter China's growing influence there.

Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, announced the plan during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Kritenbrink said the US aims to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The US opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands earlier this year. The Biden administration has said it is in talks to do the same in Kiribati and Vanuatu.

Biden is planning to visit Papua New Guinea after attending the G7 summit in Hiroshima that begins on May 19.

He is to hold a meeting in Papua New Guinea with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, which consists of 18 nations and territories including Australia.