The tension surrounding China’s influence in the Pacific is palpable. Showing through multiple events such as:
China’s effort for reunification with Taiwan, an ambition Taiwan openly denounces.
The Solomon Islands turned away U.S. navy vessels after signing a security pact with Beijing.
And President Biden’s recent remarks about how the U.S. military will intervene should China attempt to seize Taiwan.
Guam may play an important role in the event a conflict arises between these nations.
In his address to the Pacific Judicial Conference on Tuesday, Commander of Joint Region Marianas, Rear Admiral Benjamin Nicholson, expressed that U.S. military presence on the island is to ensure safety in the Pacific.
He says that Guam has a vital role in defense and stability in the region.
“As a military force,” Nicholson said, “We are charged to defend against those who would threaten that stability.”
He continued, “I am tasked with ensuring the defense of Guam, the CNMI, the FSM, and the Republic of Palau.”
In an interview on NewsTalk K57 with Patti Arroyo, former Guam U.S. delegate, Robert Underwood, emphasized that the U.S. must see Pacific Island nations as more than just locations with strategic value.
Dr. Underwood said, “The U.S. has to demonstrate that they hold these nations with some regard, not as pawns in the geo-strategic struggle but as partners.”
Nicholson also shared that Beijing’s reach is expanding, not only through military efforts but also through political and economic influence.
China’s economic influence is apparent through the amount of foreign aid they’ve given to the Pacific Nations.
According to research by Lowy Institute, as of 2019, China has spent over $2.40 billion dollars across 13,000 plus projects in the South Pacific.
They’ve invested millions of dollars in places like Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Cook Islands, and Samoa.
The renewal of the Compacts of Free Association is the latest White House effort to deter Chinese influence in the region.
Robert Underwood says that the White House is set to release strategic policy specific to the Pacific Islands.
He added, “So this is unprecedented. This level of attention is unprecedented.”
Special U.S. Presidential Envoy Ambassador Joseph Yun says they hope to conclude agreements by the end of the year.
The Republic of China claims that they have no particular goal in the Pacific, except for strengthening diplomatic ties between nations.
Chinese military influence has yet to be felt in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Rear Admiral shared that the Department of Defense plans to improve existing infrastructure in other islands to allow more flexibility in moving within the Pacific.
For the Pacific News Center
I’m Devin Eligio