Pacific News Minute: US 'stepping up' regional engagement to offset China's increasing presence
A top White House official says the United States plans to propose a new initiative to address issues in the Pacific this week as it scrambles to offset China’s increasing presence in the region.
Washington is “stepping up” its engagement with Pacific island nations to address their concerns over everything from illegal fishing to climate change to regional security. That’s according to Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs in the National Security Council.
He says the initiative is intended to ensure that the United States, along with Australia, Britain, France, Japan and New Zealand, can push for the Pacific environment to remain "open" and "free from coercion."
Campbell addressed an online forum hosted by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank.
He says the U.S. will be launching an initiative to work with a variety of like-minded Pacific island countries on an open, very detailed set of engagements.
The remarks came as China seeks to increase its influence in the Pacific. The Solomon Islands recently signed a security pact with China that many fear could lead to a Chinese naval base being built less than 1,200 miles off Australia's northeast coast.
Although China last month failed to persuade other Pacific island countries to sign an agreement covering issues including security, trade, and fishing rights, it has vowed to pursue closer ties with the nations.
Campbell says the U.S. wants to step up its game substantially in the Pacific, which he calls “an area of enormous strategic importance."