United States pushes for joint declaration from Pacific summit

The United States hopes its summit with Pacific island leaders will result in a joint declaration, a senior administration official said, a potential U.S. win in the region after countries rejected China’s push for a wide-ranging pact.

The official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the two days of meetings this week with more than a dozen Pacific countries will have substantial announcements including U.S. Coast Guard, Peace Corps and USAID’s involvement in the region.

“We are also working towards what I would call a joint statement which really is about a larger vision in which the United States and Pacific island nations sign up to some joint endeavors which are important,” the official said.

President Joe Biden’s Pacific summit is meant to show a deeper U.S. commitment to a vast and economically lagging region that has increasingly turned to China to meet its development needs, officials and analysts said. Over two decades, China has become an important source of infrastructure, loans and aid for Pacific island nations as it seeks to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and gain regional allies in international organizations such as the United Nations. 

Some analysts say Beijing also wants a military presence in the Pacific in a challenge to U.S. dominance. Earlier this year it signed a pact with the Solomon Islands that would allow it to send security forces to protect Chinese interests in those islands. But 10 Pacific countries rebuffed the Chinese government’s attempt to get them to sign up to its vision for the region.

Australia’s state broadcaster ABC on Wednesday reported, without citing a source, that the Solomon Islands government has objected to signing the United States’ proposed declaration.

“We’ve had a huge amount of enthusiastic support but, like in all discussions, there’s more work to be done and we expect that to continue tomorrow,” the senior U.S. official said. “This kind of interaction is not unusual.” 

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.

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