Thursday, June 20, 2024

US Makes Strong Efforts to Counter China in the Pacific

Washington, DC – The United States has dialed up its efforts to challenge China’s growing influence in the Pacific, which it finds important from the perspective of its own security. It is seeking support from different players in the Indo-Pacific, which are impacted by regional Chinese hegemony. The Biden administration recently held a summit with 14 Pacific Island governments designed to counter Beijing’s growing regional influence. One of the participants was the Solomon Islands, which had held security cooperation talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in May this year.

The US intends to maintain its dominant position in the region by keeping China’s influence in check. The Pacific region is crucial for the US regarding its military security. “The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security and the security of the Pacific islands,” US President Joe Biden said during the summit. China has become a significant threat to the US from security and trade angles. A US government report said the pressure and economic coercion by China “risks undermining the peace, prosperity, and security of the (pacific) region, and by extension, of the United States.”

The US had not been active in strengthening ties with the Pacific countries. However, the latest summit showed that Washington had changed its outlook, especially in the wake of growing Chinese influence, said Derek Grossman, an analyst with the global think tank RAND Corporation. “We are still all working from, generally speaking, the same sheet of music, which is we don’t want the Chinese establishing a military foothold in the region, and we don’t want them corrupting the institutions of the region,” he said.

Pacific island nations will receive around $810 million in funds under the ‘Pacific Partnership Strategy,’ announced by Biden. The US is working at a micro level in order to remain strong in the Pacific region. This involves financial investments, defense cooperation, police training, COVID assistance, and climate support. Security personnel in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands will be trained by the US Coast Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Interestingly, China had earlier signed a pact with the Solomon Islands for a police training program.

Many countries have been victims of Beijing’s economic coercion, which saw suspending trade, cutting off tourism, and boycotting products. The US seeks to gain from it. Anna Powles, a security expert from New Zealand’s Massey University, expressed doubts over the outcome of the American maneuvers but said the US managed to demonstrate that it “is engaged and committed in the Pacific,” which can be seen as a tangible achievement for the efforts to counter China. She said that Pacific countries are looking for evidence that the US is listening to regional concerns and priorities.

A big player in the region, Australia has turned from once being China’s friend to a foe. It has come closer to the US and has become a part of different initiatives led by the US to counter China. Mihai Sora, a Pacific Islands specialist at Australia’s Lowy Institute, said, “China’s actions in the Pacific have sparked a counter-reaction from traditional partners, and larger powers that had previously been less engaged in the Pacific for some time.”  Another influential country New Zealand had reasons to panic after reports of China building a military base in the Solomon Islands surfaced.

The security cooperation with China has brought the Solomon Islands to the center stage of the US’ Pacific Strategy. During the recent summit, Solomon Island had opposed China’s reference in US Pacific Partnership Declaration. It had previously denied US and UK ships access, resulting from Beijing’s influence. All this has added to the US’ concerns about Solomon Islands becoming a China ally. The US is trying to make attempts that reduce the possibility of other countries in the Pacific region getting into China’s orbit.

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