More information about Kiribati is available on the Kiribati country page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States and Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship in 1979, following Kiribati’s independence from the United Kingdom. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1980. The United States and Kiribati have enjoyed a close relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests. The two countries work together on a broad range of issues, including strengthening regional security, promoting education and climate resilience, and protecting fisheries and food and water security. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the U.S. Embassy in Fiji are concurrently accredited to Kiribati and made regular visits to Kiribati prior to COVID-19 related border closures. In November 2018, the United States and Kiribati commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Tarawa, one of the bloodiest of World War II’s Pacific Theater. The two countries actively cooperate in the repatriation of remains of U.S. Marines fallen in that battle.
U.S. Assistance to Kiribati
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds regional projects assisting communities in accessing financing, building institutional capacity, and adapting to climate change. The Climate Ready project (2016-2022) supports climate finance and management capacity by working with government partners and stakeholders to draft and implement policies to achieve adaption goals; access larger amounts of financing from international adaption funds; and improve the skills and systems within each country to better manage and monitor adaption projects. With the Pacific Community (SPC), the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change project (ISACC, 2015-2022) is expanding government capacity to manage their climate finances more successfully and supporting the scale up of successful multi-sectoral projects to improve climate resilience. In addition to USAID climate programs, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) funds several grants and interagency agreements that provide support for early warning systems and national adaptation planning in Kiribati as part of Pacific Island regional programs.
To combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, USAID programs are working to improve sustainable coastal fisheries management and creating enabling conditions for an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Through its Pacific Coastal Fisheries Management and Compliance program (2021-2026), USAID is strengthening appropriate, effective, and collaborative monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) of fisheries.
USAID, through its partners, provided COVID-19 assistance in Kiribati. The support included 10 ventilators and associated training, as well as prevention and response activities via risk communication and community engagement, infection prevention and control, surveillance, and lab support. USAID also provided technical assistance for vaccine deployment and supported cold chain equipment, communication and demand generation, policy, planning, health information systems and health provider training. USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) works with the Kiribati Red Cross Society and the local organization Live and Learn Kiribati on disaster preparedness, water resiliency, and community outreach on COVID-19 through USAID/BHA’s programming with CARE.
USAID/BHA supports disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience programming in Kiribati year-round. With the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), USAID/BHA supports the Kiribati Red Cross Society to develop its ability to assist communities to mitigate the impacts of climate change by advocating for community level climate action, water and sanitation activities for drought preparedness, and mobilization of volunteers to improve water resources management capacity and resilience to climate variability.
The United States has a maritime law enforcement agreement with Kiribati under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) that enhances regional security. Entered into force in November 2008 and amended in March 2013, the maritime law enforcement agreement permits Kiribati law enforcement officers to ride aboard U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels or aircraft and grants authority to the United States to stop, board, and search vessels suspected of violating Kiribati laws and regulations and enter the territorial seas of the Republic of Kiribati. The United States also contributes U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy air assets to search and rescue operations and regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) operations that help Kiribati protect earnings from fishing licenses in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Bilateral Economic Relations
U.S. trade with Kiribati is limited. Kiribati is a party to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which provides access for U.S. fishing vessels to fish in waters under the jurisdiction of Pacific Island parties in exchange for a license fee paid by U.S. industry. Under a separate Economic Assistance Agreement associated with the Treaty, the United States government currently provides $21 million per year to the Pacific Island parties. Pre-pandemic, the majority of U.S. tourists to Kiribati visited Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Line Islands.
Kiribati’s Membership in International Organizations
Kiribati and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific Community (SPC), and the Secretariat of the Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). Kiribati also belongs to the Pacific Islands Forum, of which the United States is a Dialogue Partner.
Since the 2016 opening of the American Corner in Tarwara, the U.S. Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Section has re-energized outreach in Kiribati through a range of media, speaker, cultural, and small grants programs, including the first-ever tour of a country music band in Kiribati. Kiribati also participates in the Young Pacific Leaders program, which since 2013 has worked to strengthen linkages between emerging leaders from Pacific Island countries and the United States. The U.S. Embassy also facilitates multiple exchange and education programs for Kiribati participants, including the popular Fulbright exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and the U.S. – South Pacific Scholarship program (USSP).
Approximately 80 alumni from Kiribati have participated in USG-sponsored exchange programs. Virtual exchange programs continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including IVLP projects to promote climate resilience and environmental advocacy in the Pacific, and biosecurity and agricultural exports and imports. The USSP also continued in-person programming throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and has provided opportunities for 8 undergraduate and graduate students from Kiribati since 1994 to study subjects such as Computer Science, Marine Science, and Ocean and Resources Engineering in the United States.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List. Kiribati does not have an embassy in Washington, D.C., but Kiribati’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York is accredited as ambassador to the United States.