28 Mei 2023Palau, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea countries (image : GoogleMaps)
A U.S. diplomatic offensive to counter China's growing clout in the Pacific Islands appears to be paying dividends, with three agreements sealed within 48 hours.
The Biden administration has focused far more attention on the Pacific islands — new embassies, more aid, several high-level visits — since a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands spooked Washington last year.
The recent agreements with Papua New Guinea (PNG), Palau and Micronesia underscore that, for now, "it's still a heavily U.S.-leaning region," says Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken and PNG Prime Minister James Marape signed a security pact Monday under which the U.S. will provide training and funding to help PNG's military respond to threats like drug trafficking and natural disasters.
President Biden intended to sign it himself in what would have been the first U.S. presidential visit to a Pacific Islands country, but he flew home from the G7 summit in Japan to deal with the debt ceiling crisis instead.
The U.S.-PNG agreement hasn't been published, but it's expected to give the U.S. military conditional access to bases, ports and airports in the country.
Ahead of the signing, student protesters and rival politicians in PNG accused Marape of sacrificing sovereignty and putting the country at the center of U.S.-China rivalry.
Marape pushed back, arguing that the agreement will strengthen PNG's defenses and won't stop the country from doing business with China, which has developed roads and other infrastructure projects in the country in recent years.
Beijing's Foreign Ministry didn't directly object to the deal but said Beijing opposes the "introduction of any geopolitical games" in the region.
Blinken oversaw another signing ceremony on Monday as Palau extended its Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. for another 20 years. Micronesia will follow suit tomorrow.
See full article Axios