The United States established a consular presence at Butaritari in the Gilbert Islands (present-day Kiribati) to protect U.S. trade in the region, appointing Commercial Agent Adolph Rick on May 25, 1888. With the Ellice Islands (present-day Tuvalu), the Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and the entire island group was made a British colony in 1916.
The Japanese occupied several of the Gilbert Islands during World War II, after which the island chain reverted to its former colonial status. The British began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s, clearing the way for the Gibert and Ellice Islands splitting in 1975. Kiribati eventually became independent on July 12, 1979. Modern Flag of Kiribati
The United States recognized the Republic of Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands) on September 20, 1979, when the two nations signed a Treaty of Friendship. The Gilbert Islands, previously a British colony, had gained independence on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.
The United States and Kiribati agreed to establish diplomatic relations on August 12, 1980.
William Bodde, Jr. was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Kiribati on September 26, 1980. Bodde was stationed at Suva, Fiji, as no diplomatic facilities exist on Kiribati.