To counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific, the United States should increase its support for island nations, the new report states.
China has made progress in the Pacific islands such as an area of strategic interest that it has been unattainable in other parts of the world, a new report by a congress-funded think tank says.
The advancement of China’s geostrategic goals among Pacific nations should be a cause for concern – but not alarm – for Washington, according to the Washington Post. report released Tuesday by the American Institute of Peace, whose co-authors include former senior military officials.
Against China’s growing influence in the regionThe United States should step up its support to island nations in the north Pacific, with which historic ties are strongest, the report suggests.
“Chinese officials have not publicly stated that the Pacific Islands region is an area of high strategic interest, but the benefits of increased engagement with the region are clear,” the report said. clear.
“Perhaps to a greater extent than any other geographic region, the Pacific Islands offer China a low-investment, high-reward opportunity to score symbolic, strategic victories. and tactics in pursuing its global agenda”.
The report comes ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and dozens of Pacific island leaders next week, as Washington seeks to compete for influence with Beijing.
The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau are sovereign states known as Freely Associated States (FAS) that signed a treaty in the late 1980s granting the United States defense responsibility and the right to military bases in those territories.
These contracts, which expire in 2023 and 2024, are currently being renegotiated by the US and the report warns that relevant countries can look to China to finance if negotiations with Washington fail.
“The vast territorial waters of the FAS, which span much of the northern Pacific Ocean, are an important strategic buffer between U.S. defense forces in Guam and Hawaii and the coastal waters of East Asia,” it said. report, whose authors include Philip Davidson, a former commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, and David Stilwell, a former assistant secretary of state.
If Beijing succeeds in bringing one of the FAS countries into its range, “it will strengthen the military capabilities of the United States in a strategically important geographic command area and open up the opening the door to a broader reorganization of regional architecture with implications beyond the Pacific region”. the report states.
A US missile defense test range in the Marshall Islands is critical to US space and missile defense capabilities, the report added.
Washington needs to provide an alternative to China’s economic support to “resist Beijing’s efforts to exploit regional perceptions of neglect and abandonment,” the report notes.
More resources are also needed to monitor China’s growing activity in FAS, where Chinese research vessels with “military tools” have been spotted moving around without permission.
The Federated States of Micronesia recently agreed to the development of new US military facilities, and Palau asked the US to build airstrips, ports and bases, “Washington should seriously consider the extent to which it is suitable for needs. national defense,” the report said.