HONIARA, Solomon Islands: Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare revealed that he opted out of a Pacific Islands leaders' summit at the White House this week to evade what he perceived as a "lecture" and due to pressing issues in his home country.
Sogavare, who has nurtured close relations with China, spoke at the United Nations during his U.S. visit but did not join fellow Pacific Island Forum leaders in Washington for a two-day summit.
U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the Pacific island leaders for the second White House summit in just over a year, part of an effort to counter China's growing influence in a region that the United States considers strategically vital.
Sogavare expressed his disappointment with the outcomes of the previous summit, stating, "They lecture you about how good they are," the Solomon Islands media company Tavuli News reported.
While a Biden Administration official expressed disappointment over Sogavare's absence, the Solomon Islands leader defended his decision, emphasizing that there were only 10 weeks left in the parliamentary session at home, which he deemed a higher priority.
On the other hand, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape viewed the summit positively, noting a significant commitment from the U.S. for infrastructure investment and characterizing the meeting as a step toward enhancing security and prosperity in the Pacific.
During the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sogavare commended China's development cooperation as "less restrictive."