US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the airplane...

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the airplane at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Vantaa, Finland, Thursday, June 1, 2023. US Secretary of State Blinken will meet with Finnish Foreign Minister and Finnish Prime Minister during his visit on Friday. Credit: AP/Emmi Korhonen

WASHINGTON — The United States has reopened its embassy in the Seychelles after a 27-year absence during which China and other U.S. rivals made significant inroads in the Indian Ocean islands.

The U.S. State Department announced the move late Thursday, after having unveiled plans to open a diplomatic mission in northern Norway, which will be its only only such facility above the Arctic Circle.

The Seychelles embassy is part of a push to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. is already constructing an embassy in the Maldives and has opened or announced plans to open embassies in the Pacific, including in the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Kiribati.

The U.S. Embassy in the Seychelles capital of Victoria was shuttered in 1996 as part of cost-saving measures after the end of the Cold War. American interests in the 115-island archipelago about 1,500 kilometers (800 miles) east of mainland Africa had been handled by diplomats based in Mauritius.

“The time is right to elevate the relationship so that together we can better address shared challenges and take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He said that the U.S. would focus its efforts there on economic development, climate change, maritime security and combating transnational crime and corruption.

“Our joint pursuit of peace, democracy, and prosperity will be a beacon across Africa and the Indian Ocean region,” Blinken said.

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