The Australian government will open an embassy in Palau, according to a speech by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a speech on Nov. 8.

The announcement of Morrison is part of Australia’s “step-up” in Pacific engagement.

“We’re also expanding our diplomatic footprint.  Our diplomatic network is already larger than any other country in the Pacific as it should be and we are going to expand it,” Morrison stated.

Morrison was addressing the Australian military personnel at the Lavarack Barracks, Townsville, Queensland.

“Today I announce that we intend to open diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands. This will mean Australia is represented in every member country of the Pacific Islands Forum.”

In the North Pacific, Australia has a diplomatic post in Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

The planned diplomatic posts will be opened by 2021.

In June this year, former Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Palau as part of her north Pacific tour, leading a delegation tasked to foster “a deeper, stronger bond between Australia and the people of the North Pacific.”

Bishop’s North Pacific tour, which included a visit in Palau, FSM and Marshall Islands, stressed Australia’s step up in its Pacific relationship amid the growing Chinese activity in the region.

“Traveling to Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands again sends a very clear message that we regard the Pacific as our part of the world, this is our region where we can make a difference,” she said. “The purpose of this week’s visit is to engage directly with the leaders on how we can deepen economic integration, strengthen security partnerships, expand our people-to-people links and talk about our development assistance,” Bishop has earlier said.

During Bishop’s President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said it welcomes Australia’s offer “to be a key partner and advocate for regional peace and security.”

Remengesau said it hopes to get more investors from Australia but is also welcoming of other players in the region, including China.

Palau for the last three years has seen in increase in the number of tourist arrivals and private investments from China. (Bernadette H. Carreon)