US pours $600M into the Pacific to "counter China's influence"
US Vice President Kamala Harris announces $600 million in funding during the Pacific Islands Forum 2022.
The 51st Pacific Islands Forum continues on Wednesday, July 13 in Suva, the capital of Fiji. While the islands seek to address their climate emergency, US Vice President Kamala Harris announces in an unprecedented move a fund of $600 million to the islands in order "to counter the Chinese influence in the region."
The fund is intended to open two new embassies, one in Tonga and one in Kiribati. It will also assist the Forum Fisheries Agency by allocating them $60 million. Harris added that a special presidential envoy to the Pacific Islands will be appointed and that the Peace Corps in the Pacific will be relaunched.
Harris made her virtual address via zoom to the forum, usually reserved for Pacific countries, Australia and New Zealand. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations also spoke via zoom. During Harris' address, two Chinese defense attaches were escorted out of the forum by the police, causing minor disturbances.
China has had a long trade partnership and strategic relationship with the region's islands. Over the last 40 years, China and countries of the pacific islands have kept ongoing exchanges and cooperation in more than 20 areas, including trade, investment, ocean affairs, environmental protection, disaster prevention and mitigation, poverty alleviation, health care, education, tourism, culture, sports and at the sub-national level.
For the region's islands, China has provided economic and technical assistance without any political strings attached, implemented more than 100 aid projects, delivered more than 200 batches of in-kind assistance, and trained about 10,000 talents in various fields. China has dispatched 600 medical staff to the pacific islands, benefiting more than 260,000 local residents.
Therefore, Harris's offer is clearly an attempt to undermine China's regional efforts. The US, which had so far never appointed a US regional envoy until the summit occurred, had suddenly become heavily involved in the Pacific's affairs.
On April 19th this year, China announced that it signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, intended to deploy security forces in the Pacific island nation, as well as for the Chinese navy, which has been rapidly growing its fleet as well as spreading its reach far from China’s shores, to use its ports.
In 2021, the US, UK, and Australia to form the AUKUS alliance. The alliance was based on enhancing Australia's nuclear capabilities through advanced technology and nuclear submarines in order to increase the Western alliance's military strength in the South Pacific.