Bill Proposes to Establish Permanent US Special Envoy to Pacific to Counter CCP

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
April 20, 2023Congress
Bill Proposes to Establish Permanent US Special Envoy to Pacific to Counter CCP
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) listens as Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington on March 29, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced new legislation on Thursday to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) growing influence in the Pacific with a permanent U.S. special envoy to the region’s leading policy forum.

The bill (pdf), known as the “U.S. and Pacific Islands Forum Partnership Act,” proposes to establish a permanent special envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a group of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and some 18 Pacific Island nations in total.

Kennedy’s office noted that Beijing sees the group of Pacific Island countries as strategically important to its ambitions to dominate the region, given the communist regime already has a special envoy to the PIF. In February, the CCP appointed Qian Bo, China’s ambassador to Fiji since 2018, as its special envoy.

“Communist China aims to broaden its sphere of influence across Southeast Asia, and America’s diplomacy in the Pacific has been a long-term challenge,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Beijing is putting more economic and diplomatic pressure on the Pacific Island states each day, and one of the clearest and easiest steps that Congress can take to counter this communist antagonism is to establish a special envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum.”

NTD Photo
Flags from the Pacific Islands countries being displayed in Yaren on the last day of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on Sept. 5, 2018. (Mike Leyral/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration has previously noted that the United States has dropped the ball in the Pacific, which some analysts have said allowed the CCP to cultivate its influence and play an increasingly aggressive role. Beijing has been investing heavily in terms of foreign aid and other projects in the region in recent years through predatory programs like the Belt and Road Initiative.

Kennedy’s office stated that a permanent, Senate-confirmed special envoy would help remedy this, strengthening growth and cooperation with these important Pacific Island countries.

“Making the position Senate-confirmed would also elevate diplomacy in the region and ensure accountability to Congress,” Kennedy’s office stated.

With a special envoy, the United States can build stronger relationships with these Pacific Island countries and counter Beijing’s growing influence.

“This special envoy will help answer a diversity of threats from the communist regime by deepening trust and increasing dialogue on the Pacific Islands’ economic, cyber security, and military concerns,” Kennedy’s office stated.

‘Inextricably Linked’

The U.S. diplomatic envoy was announced last July 2022 when Vice President Kamala Harris gave a rare non-member address to the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji. Typically, nations outside the membership aren’t invited to attend.

Harris outlined a number of steps the United States would take a strengthen diplomatic relations. This would include, she said, dispatching the Peace Corps to the region, setting up embassies in Kiribati and Tonga, looking at reestablishing a mission for providing humanitarian aid, and appointing the first-ever U.S. envoy to PIF.

“The history and the future of the Pacific Islands and the United States are inextricably linked. We have historic bonds going back generations,” Harris said during her address.

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U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris speaks via video-link to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Suva, Fiji, on July 13, 2022. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

“We recognize in recent years, the Pacific Islands may not have received the diplomatic attention and support that you deserve. Today, I am here to tell you directly we are going to change that.”

The address was seen as a signal of the United States seeking to regain its influence from the Chinese regime in the region. The CCP and democratic nations have been locked in an ongoing diplomatic tug-of-war over the region.

Kennedy’s legislation received some bipartisan support, with 11 senators cosponsoring it, including Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.)

The PIF is the Pacific region’s main political and economic policy grouping, founded in 1971. A full list of its members includes Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

PIF didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

Daniel Teng contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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