US Pledges $810 Million to Pacific Islands as ‘Enduring Commitment’ to Counter Beijing’s Influence

Henry Jom
By Henry Jom
September 30USshare

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 29 announced US$810 million in new funding to Pacific Island nations over the next decade as the U.S. seeks to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

The meeting comes after Beijing and the Solomon Islands signed off on a security pact in April, which received strong pushback from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Soloman Island’s prime minister Manasseh Sogavare also reportedly signalled hesitancy to sign any end-of-summit statement critical of China, according to Reuters.

Speaking to more than a dozen Pacific Islands leaders at a “first ever” summit in Washington D.C. on Sept. 29, Biden said his administration is committed to developing closer U.S.-Pacific Island partnerships, as well as bolstering U.S. presence in the region.

“A great deal of the history of our world is going to be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years and decades,” Biden said. “And the Pacific islands are a critical voice in shaping that future. And that’s why my administration has made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with your countries.”

“The United States has directly provided over $1.5 billion to support the Pacific Islands over the past decade and today has announced over $810 million in additional expanded programs.”

Biden said he wanted to show an “enduring commitment” to the pacific island nations adding that the “security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security.”

Peace Corps, Coast Guard, NOAA and Defence to See Increase in the Region

Of the new funding, US$20 million will be used for the development of tourism for the Solomon Islands, while US$600 will support and develop the fisheries industry across the South Pacific over 10 years.

The Biden administration also released the “first-ever” Pacific Partnership strategy on Sept. 29, which is meant to compliment the earlier Indo-Pacific strategy.

Under the Pacific strategy, the U.S. will expand U.S. diplomatic missions from six to nine across the Pacific region, deploy additional personnel across, increase the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Defense in the area, and “lift” Pacific Islands out of the emergency phase of COVID-19. The U.S. will also return Peace Corps volunteer presence to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu this year and actively explore options for opening missions in other countries.

Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris
Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris pull a person from the water on April 13, 2021, after a 175-foot commercial lift boat capsized 8 miles south of Grand Isle, La. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

Biden said the U.S. would also recognise New Zealand realm countries the Cook Islands and Niue as “sovereign states,” which would allow both territories to develop diplomatic relations directly with the U.S.

This recognition would also make the Cook Islands and Niue eligible for some of the U.S. funding, according to Meg Keen, the director of the Pacific Islands program for the Australia-based Lowy Institute.

The White House said that U.S. embassies would also open in Tonga and Kiribati.

Blinken Optimistic Despite Sogavare’s Reported Hesitancy to Sign Declaration

Following reports that Soloman Island’s Sogavare would not sign any end-of-summit statement critical of China, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that pacific leaders involved in the summit have “come together around a declaration of partnership between the U.S. and the Pacific, one that shows that we have a shared vision for the future and a determination to build that future together.”

“So I’m very pleased that we have this today, that we’ve agreed on it, and it will give us a road map for the work that we’re doing in the future.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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