More information about Kiribati is available on the Kiribati 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 closely together on a broad range of issues, from strengthening regional security, to promoting education and climate resilience, to 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 make regular visits. 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
USAID funds regional projects assisting communities in accessing financing, building institutional capacity, and adapting to climate change. The Ready project (2016-2021) supports climate finance and management capacity. With the Pacific Community (SPC), the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change project (ISACC, 2015-2020) is undertaking climate finance assessments and supporting scale up of successful multi-sectoral projects. The Pacific American Climate Fund (PACAM, 2013-2019) built the capacity of small local grantees to adapt to climate change while supporting their efforts to improve water supply and management. The United States is a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Kiribati, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), to which the United States, together with Japan, is the largest contributor; UN Children’s Fund; World Health Organization; and UN Fund for Population Activities.
The United States has an expanded shiprider agreement with Kiribati under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) to provide security and support missions that permit Kiribati law enforcement officials to ride aboard U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The United States also contributes U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy air assets to search and rescue operations as well as regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) operations that help Kiribati protect earnings from fishing licenses in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Additionally, Kiribati participates in U.S. Pacific Command sponsored workshops on topics including humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and maritime security.
Bilateral Economic Relations
U.S. trade with Kiribati is limited. Kiribati is a party to the U.S.-Pacific Islands Multilateral Tuna Fisheries Treaty, which provides access to U.S. fishing vessels 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 Pacific island parties. The majority of U.S. tourists to Kiribati visit Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations as there is a direct flight from Hawaii.
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, and the Secretariat of the Regional Environmental Programme. Kiribati also belongs to the Pacific Islands Forum, of which the United States is a Dialogue Partner.
Since the 2016 opening of the American Shelf, the Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Section has re-energized outreach in Kiribati through media, speaker, and cultural programs, including the first-ever tour of a country music band in Kiribati. Public Diplomacy also funds multiple exchange and education programs for iKiribati participants.
The U.S. Ambassador to Kiribati is Joseph J. Cella, resident in Fiji. Other 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.
More information about Kiribati is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: