US-led Pacific group to focus on climate, outreach amid China concerns

Pacific Islands Forum / FORUMSEC.ORG

China’s ambitions in the Pacific are a concern to some Pacific island leaders, but the growing US partnership with allies in the region aims to address issues such as climate change, health, and technology links, White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region Kurt Campbell said Thursday. .

Mr Campbell spoke after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hosted a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Blue Ocean Partners (PBP) – a group formed in June that includes the US, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the UK. .

Briefing reporters about the meeting, US officials said Canada and Germany intended to formally join the initiative, which seeks to coordinate assistance to the strategically vital region in the face of competition from China.

“I think as we’ve seen in some cases, it’s clear that China has ambitions in the Pacific, some of which are causing concern for Pacific island leaders,” Campbell said. But he said the group’s agenda would be guided by the needs of the Pacific island nations.

“When we reach out to Pacific Islanders, the first thing they say is that for us national security really includes our environment and how climate change is an existential problem for them,” Campbell said.

The Blue Pacific event, held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, comes before the September 28-29 summit, US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to host Pacific Island leaders.

The Biden administration said the summit reflected its commitment to the Pacific island nations, whose leaders said this month that Washington should accept their priorities, making climate change — not great power competition — the most urgent security task.
Mr. Campbell added that the group is also working to increase communication between island nations.

He said the United States, Australia and Japan were involved in a number of efforts to develop submarine cables in the Pacific Ocean and added, in an apparent reference to the summit, “we’ll have more to say about this next week.”

Mr. Campbell said that two of the Quartet’s initiatives – the United States, Japan, India and Australia – wanted to focus on in the Pacific were awareness of the maritime domain and increased inter-island connectivity with countries such as Japan, Australia and India.

“This can only be achieved by laying … submarine cables. And so, I think the challenge is before us.” “We believe it is important, and it will require funding and capacity, not just from one country, but our joint efforts together.”

In a separate meeting, Mr. Blinken and his counterparts in South Korea and Japan emphasized the shared commitment to support the Pacific Island Countries. A joint statement said they pledged to look at ways to better assist island nations in accessing climate finance and reaffirmed support for their efforts to enhance maritime security and protect fisheries. – Reuters

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