Ask any American what a Tonga and Kiribati are and they would probably guess two rookie baseball players.
Or, if they think it’s a country, ask them to find it on the map.
But for the servants owned U.S. military industrial complex running Washington DC, it’s important for America to have a presence 6,500 miles from its homeland.
The U.S. admitted last week that it has not paid enough attention to Oceania countries in the past decade, and is now looking to buy some new friends in hopes to counter China, which has been making inroads in the region.
Washington announced last Wednesday that it plans to open two new embassies there, one in Tonga and the other in Kiribati, to show its renewed commitment.
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) in a video conference and said the U.S. did not always pay enough attention to these countries, which span the Eastern and Western hemispheres. But she promised that the U.S. plans to change that and will “significantly deepen our presence in the Pacific region.”
Part of the new attention—you guessed it!—will come in the form of cold-hard cash. The U.S. aims to provide about $60 million in aid each year over the next decade, which Al Jazeera noted will triple the current assistance to the region. The money is intended to combat illegal fishing (by the Chinese), enhance maritime security, and deal with climate change.
“Pacific island nations are on the front lines of the climate and ocean crises,” Monica Medina, the assistant Secretary of State, said, according to the Financial Times.
The BBC pointed out that China, not to be outdone, was hosting a separate “political dialogue” with these Pacific Island countries. These countries included Tonga, Niue, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Kiribati, the report said.
Kiribati has been inching closer to China since 2019, when it cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan. There have been disputes between Kiribati and other countries over a vote in 2021 that gave Henry Puna, the former prime minister of the Cook Islands, the top post of the PIF.
Japan Today said Puna’s selection violated a “gentleman’s agreement” that it was Micronesia’s turn to represent the top post. Kiribati did not attend the meeting.
The decision raised further concerns that Kiribati is getting closer to China.
“I know they are cooking something with China,” Anote Tong, the former Kiribati president, said in an interview with RNZ.co.nz.
Biden told workers at the Pentagon in February 2021, less than a month in office, that the U.S. will “meet the China challenge” by taking a “whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships.”
The Trends Journal has noted that the relationship between China and its neighbors has been strained in the past few years, and Beijing blames much of the tension on the U.S. The U.S. is part of the AUKUS agreement that will deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. South Korea and Japan were also part of NATO discussions in Madrid earlier this month, which illustrates the budding relationship that has been criticized as adversarial by China.
Australia has raised concerns about Beijing’s new security agreement with the Solomon Islands. (See “AUSTRALIA LOOKS TO QUANTUM SCIENCE TO COUNTER CHINA” and “U.S. LAUNCHES COLD WAR 2.0: CHINA LAMBASTS ‘COLD-WAR MENTALITY.’”)
Australia announced in March that it will spend about 30 percent more on its military over the next two decades—its largest boost in spending since the Vietnam War. Canberra will use some of its new personnel to operate the nuclear-powered submarines it will receive under the AUKUS partnership.
Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of Solomon Islands, has tried to assure Canberra that the agreement with China is purely economical and there will never be a Chinese military base on the island. He said Australia is the “security partner of choice” for the island.
“Let me assure you all again, there is no military base, nor any other military facility, or institutions in the agreement,” he told The Guardian last week. “And I think that’s a very important point that we continue to reiterate to the family in the region.”
The U.S. announced earlier this year that it will reopen its embassy in the Solomon Islands, which was closed in 1993.
TRENDPOST: Part of the reason these countries are more dependent on larger countries like the U.S. and China to come to their aid is due to their dire financial crises due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Tong told the New Zealand outlet that the Kiribati government is under serious financial stress and the “escalating budget which is not sustainable.”
Tonga’s economy is also facing problems after COVID-19 and border restrictions. The island was also devastated by the Hunga volcano eruption and tsunami earlier this year. The country’s finance minister warned that its economy will continue to shrink to levels not seen.
Tessie Lambourne, Kiribati’s opposition leader, told the Guardian that she was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by the decision not to attend the conference.
“I’m embarrassed because what we are saying is that we are not in the fold … we are outside,” she said. “And why are we outside? I think it’s us who keep ourselves out … because we are not engaged or engaging.”
The Trends Journal has long reported that Biden sees China as the biggest threat to the U.S. dominance in the world. (See “SPOTLIGHT CHINA: EAST VS. WEST,” “BIDEN RAMPS UP PRESSURE ON CHINA,” “U.S. LAUNCHES COLD WAR 2.0: CHINA LAMBASTS ‘COLD-WAR MENTALITY’” and “CHINA TASK FORCE: U.S. APPROACH TO BEIJING.”)