HomeTrendingUS, China evenly matched in struggle for Pacific supremacy

US, China evenly matched in struggle for Pacific supremacy

This week, the United States opened foreign aid offices in the Pacific Islands, increasing support for the key region and putting it in direct competition with China, which has long been lending the region money for infrastructure.

Amid tensions over Taiwan, the enormous ocean region that played a crucial role in World War Two is once again in the news. This week, Taiwanese officials warned that China, which claims the island as its own, may soon begin military exercises aimed at intimidating voters ahead of a vote next year.

A Chinese military delegation attended a summit of twenty international defence chiefs on Wednesday that was sponsored by the United States in Fiji, emphasising the significance of the area for both countries.

US outreach for Pacific nations

Samantha Power, the administrator of USAID, travelled to the two largest Pacific Island countries at the same time, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, to inaugurate new offices and pledge support for the region. A defence cooperation pact was inked by the US and PNG in May.

The Solomon Islands, which signed a security agreement with China last year but has not yet accepted any US help, and Vanuatu, which has closer connections to China, will also be served by the USAID office in PNG.

The United States (US) had heard the largest request from the Pacific, Power said during the opening of the regional office in Fiji: “first and foremost, to be present.”

“Our region is more secure with a strong US presence in our Blue Pacific,” Fiji’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lenora Qereqeretabua had told the media earlier this week.

A delegation to China was led by Qereqeretabua in June.

Ratu Jone Logavatu Kalouniwai, the commander of the Fiji Military Force, stated on Friday during the meeting of the defence chiefs that Fiji needs to build networks to connect with “huge military establishments” due to the geopolitical environment.

“The rules based order is the only thing that allows small countries like Fiji to become equals when we work with larger nations,” he said in a video statement.

 

US, China rivalry in Indo-Pacific

The recent events in Vanuatu have brought to light the difficulties that Pacific countries confront when attempting to get advantages from both China and the United States and its allies.

Ishmael Kalsakau, the prime minister of Vanuatu, narrowly avoided a no-confidence vote on Wednesday in a Chinese-built legislature because legislators were concerned that a security agreement with Australia, the largest giver of aid to the area and an ally of the United States, may risk Chinese loans for infrastructure.

As it does in other Pacific Islands, the U.S. Coast Guard has not yet received permission to enter Vanuatu’s port, according to Coast Guard authorities. But this week, when China’s Peace Ark medical ship docked in Vanuatu, the deputy prime minister welcomed a visiting navy group and expressed how much his country treasured its security and medical connections with China.

Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, is similarly hesitant to accept assistance from the United States (US).

On Friday, China handed over a national sports stadium to Sogavare, who had been feted while in China in July to sign a police cooperation agreement. The project, according to Chinese envoy Li Ming, was the largest infrastructural gift China had yet given to the Pacific Islands.

In an effort to further challenge China’s influence, the United States (US) plans to host a summit of Pacific Island leaders at the White House next month. This will be the second such gathering within 12 months.