Cook Islands PM attributes success of US-Pacific summit to acknowledgment of US absence in Pacific

Acknowledgment of the absence of the United States in the Pacific region was one of the reasons for the success of the United States-Pacific summit, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has said.

This follows the endorsement of the joint partnership declaration by 14 Pacific island states that would see the United States increase its diplomatic presence in the Pacific region to counter Beijing’s growing influence.

Speaking on the ABC’s Pacific Beat on Oct. 4, Brown said many Pacific nations are “seeking support from all corners” as they emerge from COVID and manage debt.

“[F]or we, we see the United States as a major contributor [to Pacific Islands]with his announcements of support he will give to Pacific countries,” Brown said.

“Full credit to the United States They have recognized that their absence for decades has resulted in a vacuum in the Pacific that has been filled by countries like China and others who have helped.

On September 29, the 14 Pacific island states issued a joint statement endorsing the United States-Pacific partnership. The 11-point declaration addressed issues related to peaceful regionalism, climate change, economic growth, disaster relief, and peace and security.

Biden also announced on September 29 $810 million in new funding to Pacific island nations over the next decade.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare initially refused to sign the joint statement if it contained anything critical of China, saying he needed more time to consider the proposal .

However, Sogavare endorsed the joint statement and on October 6 assured Australia that it would not “put its country in danger” by allowing Beijing to build a naval base in the South Pacific.

“Prime Minister, I reiterate again that the Solomon Islands will never be used for foreign military installations or institutions of foreign countries as this will not be in the interests of the Solomon Islands and its people,” Sogavare told Albanese. on October 6 before their meeting in Parliament.

“My government’s legacy is to protect the future of the Solomon Islands and its people and not to endanger the country and its citizens or the security of any forum country.”

Other Reasons to Support the US-Pacific Summit

Brown said there were other reasons why Pacific island nations, particularly the Solomon Islands, supported the joint statement.

“It wasn’t just rhetoric. It wasn’t a sugar coating,” Brown said.

“We had full face-to-face meetings with a very focused view of what the United States needs to do to re-engage with the Pacific.

“Is it still to be seen as a major competitive element in relations with China? For us, that remains to be seen. We work compatibly with China, and now we look forward to the same engagement with the United States.

“I think our Pacific Island member countries who were invited underscored the importance of the Pacific Islands Forum as a key institution in which the Pacific engages on a regional basis.”

Strong aid and Peace Corps programs were initially staples of U.S. involvement in the Pacific, but over the years they’ve been allowed to “atrophy,” said Kurt Campbell, the Indian coordinator. -pacific of the Biden administration, on September 18.

“There is also a deeper recognition that in the past we may have paid less attention to these critical places than we should have. And I think it’s important to be honest about that,” Campbell said. “And now we’re rebuilding all of that and more.”

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Henry Jom is an Australia-based journalist who covers local news in Australia. Contact him at [email protected]

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