Senior US Navy official’s visit canned after crew caught Covid-19

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A visit by the top US Navy official tomorrow was canceled after the crew caught Covid-19.

US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro was due to travel to Wellington on Monday to meet with Defense Minister Peeni Henare and senior government officials, but the US Embassy reported that members of the group of trip had caught Covid-19.

Del Toro’s visit was aimed at discussing common goals and priorities in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

US Ambassador Tom Udall said he wished the delegation “a speedy recovery and hopes the visit can be rescheduled once everyone is better”.

Del Toro had previously been to Hawaii and then to Fiji from June 15 to 16, as part of a Pacific tour to promote “security, stability and prosperity in the Pacific”.

His trips come at a time of heightened geopolitical tension in the region, dating back to a security deal signed between the Solomon Islands and China in March that raised fears he is seeking to establish a military base in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s visit to the White House also stoked tensions with China, with her and US President Joe Biden signing a joint statement pledging military cooperation and criticizing China on a range of issues.

China has also sought a far-reaching deal with 10 nations and its foreign minister Wang Yi embarking on a regional tour, also raising questions about the strength of New Zealand’s relationship in the wake of Covid-19.

This agreement was ultimately rejected by Pacific nations, with leaders including Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa declaring that any issue requiring the region’s perspective should go through the Pacific Islands Forum.

– by Michael Neilson, NZ Herald

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