U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Pacific Island leaders who balance China and the West

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Pacific Island leaders

February 10, 2022: -On Saturday, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Fiji to reassure Pacific Island leaders that Washington and its allies are committed to providing security and Covid-19 vaccines as China steps up its influence in the region.

Blinken’s Fiji visit, the first by a secretary of State in four decades, followed a meeting in Melbourne of the Quad grouping of the U.S, Japan, India, and Australia.

“The Quad becomes a powerful mechanism for delivering, helping to vaccinate a big part of the world, which gets a lot of vaccines out there,” Blinken said en route to Melbourne. It would strengthen maritime security to “push back against aggression and coercion in the Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

The 18 Pacific island leaders inviting to the video meeting with Blinken are practiced to involve the rival attentions of China and the United States and its allies.

The Federated States of Micronesia said its president, David Panuelo, will increase climate change and illegal fishing priorities with Blinken.

“It is plausible that the U.S. and its allies have seen an increased presence in the Indo-Pacific as a call for engagement in the region,” said Richard Clark, Panuelo’s press secretary.

Beijing has upped its military and police links in recent years while providing loans and infrastructure to Pacific island nations.

A joint statement issued by Beijing after a foreign minister-level meeting of Pacific Island nations in October pledged cooperation with China’s signature infrastructure policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Beijing uses economic activity associated with the BRI to achieve geopolitical goals, says that Peter Connolly, a former army officer and doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, studies Chinese statecraft in the Pacific.

“The Melanesian states are seeing the BRI as a source of much-needed finance and infrastructure, but Melanesians are aware of what this has cost them, and what it could cost them in the future,” he told Reuters by email, referring to southwest Pacific nations which don’t have defense compacts with the United States.

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