US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for an official visit to Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, before travelling to New Zealand and Australia for ministerial meetings.
In Hawaii last week, Secretary Clinton announced the US was to spend $21 million to reopen its Pacific Agency for International Development office, to be based in Suva.
Dr Richard Herr, an adjunct professor at Fiji National University, sees that as a message to the big powers of the Pacific: Australia and New Zealand.
Opening of the office was welcomed by Fiji's military backed regime.
Dr Herr sees the decision as recognition that the situation in the Pacific is "getting more interesting. The fraught relationship with Fiji is creating difficulties for traditional friends of the region. It is certainly opening doors to all sorts of new opportunities for non-traditional players."
These include China and Russia - the republic of Georgia recently approved medical aid for Tuvalu, which two days earlier had sided with Georgia in a row with Moscow over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"In other words, others are seeing opportunities in the Pacific islands that are leading to all sorts of strange alliances.
"I think these are some of the things that have concerned the US government.
"The whole Asia Pacific area is in change; everyone knows that.
"But in the South Pacific, in part because of the unstructured and difficult relationship with Fiji, Australia and New Zealand have not been playing nearly as positive and effective a role as I think some countries would have expected."
Fergus Hanson, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, sees Mrs Clinton's PNG visit as focusing on a huge planned liquefied natural gas project.
It has the ability to lift PNG out of reliance on development aid, but could also crush other industries and cause a further breakdown of law and order.
Mr Hanson says the US wants to help ensure PNG does not fall victim to what has been called the "resources curse".
Pictures: Bainimarama Graham Davis, The Australian and the Liquid Niugini Gas, picture ex Niugini Gas Ltd.