Clinton’s planned Pacific trip ‘sends message to China’

By Neil Sands (AFP)

AVARUA, Cook Islands (AFP) ― U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to make a rare foray to the South Pacific this week, in a move analysts say is aimed at curbing China’s growing influence among the region’s small island nations.

While Clinton’s previous trips to the area have focused on Canberra and Wellington, this time she is expected to visit the Cook Islands, a nation of just 11,000 people whose 15 islands cover an area barely larger than Washington D.C.

The reason is to attend a regional summit hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a group consisting mainly of small island states, along with resource-rich Papua New Guinea and the dominant regional powers Australia and New Zealand, both U.S. allies.

The impoverished, strategically unimportant island states dropped off Washington’s radar many years ago, former New Zealand diplomat Michael Powles said, as China cultivated diplomatic ties through aid and bilateral agreements.

Powles, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies in Wellington, said the presence of Washington’s top diplomat at the PIF summit would send a pointed message to Beijing that the U.S. intends to re-engage in the region.

“If you’re going to be crude about it, it’s almost the Americans saying ‘Hey, don’t forget about us’,” he told AFP.

“The U.S. has suddenly started doing a lot more in the Pacific after quite a long time of doing the absolute minimal amount, whereas over the last few years China has been pretty active.”

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3 replies

  1. This is the first top ranking US Official is visiting South Pacific sending a clear signal for China to stay out of range. China already has built formidable ties with FIJI after its neighbors Australia and NZ pulled the plugs and cut of support following the 2006 military coup.

    Only recently the two counties have renewed their support as Fiji is actively preparing to return country to democracy by a fresh general elections in 2014. A constitution review commission is currently at work in Fiji.

  2. Thank you Mr. Hanif Koya for your informative posting on the latest situation arising out of Ms. Clinton’s visit to the Crook Island in connection with the forthcoming Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)meeting with its sole end in view to control and contain China’s ever increasing influence in the region especially in view of the resource-rich Papua New Guinea. Here the most perturbing report is that these small islands are being involved with the military movements in the north of Australia and are also being offered ‘soft loans’, which will ultimately make these islands and its people, ‘economic slave’ of loan/aid giving distanced benefactors, leading to their ‘political slavery’. May God help and bless these distanced islanders to maintain their freedoms and political independence in view of big powers ‘rivalry’ and ‘greedy clashes’ of big powers’ self-interest, in the region. I wish and hope that Brother Koya will keep TMT readers up-to date on the regional developments. Thanks.

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