© Reuters FILE PHOTO – US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at a joint news conference on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the US State Department in Washington, September 16, 2020.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will host his partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) on Thursday with the aim of better coordinating aid to the region in the face of competition from China, a White House official said.
The group was founded in June and includes the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. India has observer status with the PBP, White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell said at an event in New York. He said a few other countries would also join.
According to Campbell, the situation in the countries of the Pacific Islands was “far worse” than in the past.
“Their lives are at stake,” he said, pointing to the “existential” threat they face from climate change and the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism revenue and business.
“Most of the aid in the Pacific Ocean is not as coordinated as it could be. We have not learned much about best practices. We will try to do that as we move forward, building on existing institutions and participation. Pacific Ocean.”
Some countries are doing more diplomatically in the Pacific “in terms of business prospects and aid and assistance,” Campbell added.
He said there was an “undeniable strategic element” to the increased engagement.
“We’ve seen China over the last several years looking to develop military and other footprints in the Indo-Pacific … with partners like Australia and New Zealand, as well as with countries in the region. It’s caused quite a bit of anxiety.”
On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Campbell said he plans to host a Blue Pacific event with Pacific Island leaders from September 28 to 29 with US President Joe Biden. Our strong commitment to the Pacific continues.
Washington said it did not want the region to enter a “zero-sum” race and looked forward to talks with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his delegation.
“Let’s step up our game to support a variety of initiatives that will positively impact the Pacific and the Solomons,” he said. But we’ve also made it clear what we’re concerned about and don’t want to see… long-range power projection capabilities.
The rivalry between the US and China for influence in the Pacific islands has intensified this year after China signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, which has been warned by the local military.
Pacific island leaders this month should acknowledge that Washington’s priorities are climate change – not the superpower race – is the most urgent security task.