Washington looks to boost ties with regional allies . . .
U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time hosted the leaders of three Pacific Island nations at the White House on Tuesday, part of Washington’s push to counter China’s influence in the region by reaffirming security co-operation with Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia. The U.S. and the three Pacific nations also reaffirmed their interest in a freely navigable Indo-Pacific during the Tuesday meeting, and in the joint statement that followed.
Stormy seas, stormy relations . . .
The meeting comes at a time of heightened cross-Pacific tensions that have drawn in many island states. In the past few years, leaders of Pacific islands have received the red-carpet treatment from China, with high-level visits in their own countries or abroad. But at least some of this engagement is unwanted. Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine has criticized Chinese pressure (particularly illegal ship visits and a Beijing-proposed special autonomous region in her country), and Fiji’s ambassador to the U.S. said he is seeking a greater role for his country in regional security and development through America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
Climate change gaps a sea change opportunity for Canada . . .
Notably, one of the region’s most existential security issues – climate change and rising sea levels – didn’t receive any mention in the leaders’ joint statement following the meeting, making it unclear whether they were even able to raise the climate change issue with Trump, who has scaled back U.S. action on climate change in recent years. Canada’s own engagement with Pacific Island states has been relatively limited, leaving the climate change gap in U.S. policy as a potential opportunity for Canadian engagement with these strategically positioned nations.
- Radio New Zealand: President says Marshall Islands facing pressure from China
- South China Morning Post: US-China battle for influence prompts Donald Trump to welcome leaders of South Pacific island nations to the White House
- The White House: Joint Statement