Amid tensions with Beijing over Taiwan and a growing China-Russia link in the Pacific, Washington’s offer of big dollar aid appears to have helped the US avert a major diplomatic embarrassment in its initial initiative to cooperate with the Pacific island nations and, at least for now, Chinese plans for defeat the region.
The Biden administration will announce investments of more than $810 million in expanded programs to support the Pacific islands, in addition to the more than $1.5 billion made available over the past decade, one said Washington Post report quoting US officials.
The Solomon Islands, which has a security pact with China, had previously indicated it would not sign the declaration between the US and the Pacific island nations – a move that would actually have helped Beijing to torpedo the initiative before it even began.
On Wednesday, however, all visiting leaders from the Pacific island nations, including Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, endorsed an 11-point vision statement, in which they pledged to the joint effort.
The US State Department had touted the US-Pacific Island Summit held earlier this week as a demonstration of Washington’s “deep and enduring partnership with the Pacific Island nations.”
Brian Harding, a senior Southeast Asia expert at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, said International business hours that China’s ambitions in the Pacific Rim have increased significantly over the past 5-10 years as it sees a diplomatic opportunity “to reap both substantial and token gains with limited investment given the size of the region’s population and economy.”
Following its security pact with the Solomon Islands, which set off alarm bells in Australia, New Zealand and the West, Beijing tried but failed to build a consensus among the 10 Pacific island nations to endorse a comprehensive deal radically extending China’s involvement in regional politics would have enhanced the region’s security and economy, giving it greater access to natural resources on land and in the sea.
Although “Beijing appears to have found a willing partner in Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare,” Harding pointed out that there is “widespread uneasiness in the region over what is seen as the militarization of the Pacific Islands, which the secret security pact between Beijing and China is and Honiara has highlighted.”
In August, the Solomon Islands government imposed a moratorium on naval vessels entering its ports, but lifted the ban the next month. A US Coast Guard cutter was forced to turn away from Honiara during the reporting period.
Another diplomatic priority for Beijing in the Pacific is to reduce Taiwan’s international footprint “as the region has long held a significant portion of Taipei’s remaining diplomatic allies,” he added.
Of the few countries that still maintain full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, four — the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu — are in the region.
Harding said via email that Pacific Island leaders welcomed “the newfound attention from the US — and China,” but noted that countries in the region “want to channel this heightened interest into their priority issues, first and foremost.” climate resilience and economic development. “
The islands face an existential threat from rising sea levels and frequent storms and droughts caused by climate change.
“The leaders of the Pacific Islands want commitment from Washington, and commitment with consistency,” he said.
Leaders in the region, he said, know the US is concerned about China’s growing influence, but countries there would prefer “Washington would engage with them for their own sake, not just to counter China.”
For Washington, the summit was an opportunity to remedy its lack of a strategic approach to the Pacific island nations. The US said it will focus on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.
mouthpiece of the Chinese government global times, meanwhile, called the Washington summit a false charm offensive with “sugar-coated” slogans that ignored “respect and equality.”
Speaking in July to the Pacific Islands Forum, a key regional grouping, Vice President Kamala Harris said the US would open a “new chapter” in cooperation with the region, opening new embassies and increasing funding and development assistance.
https://www.ibtimes.com.au/us-diplomacy-outmaneuvers-china-averts-crisis-relations-pacific-islands-now-1838979?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution US diplomacy maneuvers out China and averts a crisis in Pacific Island relations — for now