President Joe Biden Hosting the first-ever summit between the United States and the Pacific Islands this week, Happened for several days in Washington Focuses on cooperation with the United States in the Pacific region.
Biden’s efforts to strengthen ties with countries by holding the summit come amid a growing US focus on countering China’s global influence, and the gathering has already challenged US efforts to engage in strategic partnerships in the region.
Speaking Thursday at the State Department with Pacific leaders, Biden said, “A great deal of the history of our world will be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years and decades. The Pacific Islands are a critical voice in shaping that future. That is why my government has made it a priority for us to strengthen Our partnership with your countries.
Later Thursday, Biden will host Pacific leaders for dinner at the White House and take part in an official family photo. A senior administration official told foreign reporters covering the White House that the leaders will also meet Thursday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, as well as business groups at the US Chamber of Commerce.
The summit began on Wednesday when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken welcomed leaders at the State Department and participated in events with several of the administration’s top officials, including Secretary of State Gina Raimondo and Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry.
While other presidents in the past have held summit meetings with Pacific nations and the United States, all Pacific island nations have been invited to Washington for the Biden Summit. Leaders or representatives will attend from the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru and Vanuatu. Australia, New Zealand and the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum are attending as observers.
On Wednesday, amid a wide range of announcements about new commitments to the Pacific region, the White House said that “the United States has directly provided more than $1.5 billion in Pacific island support over the past decade and today announced more than $810 million in additional expanded programs.” The United States will also recognize the Cook Islands and Niue.
The White House unveiled a nine-point declaration outlining the commitments, which focus on: supporting the US-Pacific partnership, building US capabilities in the region, coordination with allies and partners, climate, the economy, security and maritime cooperation, cybersecurity and connectivity and Covid 19 – health security and treatment of the legacies of war.
The administration released the US Pacific Islands Strategy for the first time on Wednesday – a plan intended to complement the early release of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Notably, the strategy includes efforts to expand US diplomatic missions in the Pacific and commits to deploying additional personnel throughout the region. The strategy will also create the first US envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum and make several climate commitments, increasing the presence of the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense in the region.
“The purpose of this document is to make it explicitly consistent with the goals and objectives of our larger framework. This specifically targets concerns and goals in the Pacific as a whole,” a senior administration official said at the summit review.
That official said the summit aims to address “the daunting challenges in the Pacific” including climate change, health concerns, educational training, jobs, challenges associated with recovering from Covid-19 and poaching. The official added that the White House has worked closely in recent months with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Great Britain and others on these issues.
Marshall Islands earlier this month suspended talks to renew its security partnership with the United States, citing the long-term impact of US nuclear tests in the region nearly 70 years ago.
The announcement, revealed Thursday, notes that the United States is “exploring (unexploded ordnance) assistance options for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands in late 2022 and maintaining a rapid reaction force to support (unexploded ordnance) engagements across the Pacific at the request of host nation partners.” ”
China has expanded its relations with Pacific nations in recent years, and Beijing signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands in April, promising cooperation in trade and education.
Countries including the United States and Australia expressed their concerns after the announcement, and the Chinese government denied that the country was setting up a military base in the Solomon Islands.
despite of Previous reports indicate Solomon Islands will not sign the declaration, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken He said On Wednesday, summit leaders gathered “around a Declaration of US-Pacific Partnership, a declaration that shows we have a shared vision for the future and a determination to build that future together.”
“So I’m very happy that we got this day, that we agreed on it, and it will give us a roadmap for the work we do in the future,” he added.
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