0638 GMT September 26, 2022
The advancement of China’s geo-strategic goals among Pacific nations should be a cause for concern – but not alarm – for Washington, according to the report released on Tuesday by the United States Institute for Peace, whose co-authors include former senior military officials.
To counter China’s growing influence in the region, the US should bolster support for island states in the north Pacific where it had the strongest historical ties, the report suggests.
“Chinese officials have not stated publicly that the Pacific Islands region is an area of heightened strategic interest, but the benefits for Beijing of increased engagement with the region are clear,” according to the report.
“Perhaps to a greater extent than any other geographic area, the Pacific Islands offer China a low-investment, high-reward opportunity to score symbolic, strategic, and tactical victories in pursuit of its global agenda.”
The report comes ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and a dozen Pacific island leaders next week, as Washington seeks to compete for influence with Beijing.
The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau are sovereign nations known as Freely Associated States (FAS) that signed compacts in the late 1980s giving the US defence responsibilities and the right to military bases in those territories.