June 30, 2022 | The Diplomat

Is Anyone Listening to the Pacific Islands?

What do people of the Pacific Islands think about China’s plans for the region and the U.S. response?
June 30, 2022 | The Diplomat

Is Anyone Listening to the Pacific Islands?

What do people of the Pacific Islands think about China’s plans for the region and the U.S. response?

Excerpt

In April 2022, Solomon Islands and China signed a security deal that, according to a leaked draft, read in part: “Solomon Islands may, according to its own needs, request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order” and “China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of Solomon Islands, make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishments in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands, and the relevant forces of China can be used to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands.”

The collective response from the global strategic community was essentially the one expressed in an internal email from Ryan Washburn, USAID mission director to the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and Mongolia, to colleagues: “Yikes!”

It wasn’t that China’s strategic ambitions in the Pacific Islands were a surprise; it was that they now could no longer be ignored or explained away.

In capitals all over the world, bureaucrats who had the Pacific Islands as one of their many files (the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and Mongolia?), where it often languished near the bottom of the pile, were suddenly called into their boss’ office to answer the question: “What are we going to do about it?”

Cleo Paskal is non-resident senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. From 2006 to 2022, she was an associate fellow at Chatham House where, among other projects, she led Chatham House’s project “Perspectives on Strategic Shifts in the Indo-Pacific 2019-2024.” Follow her on Twitter @CleoPaskal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, non-partisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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China Indo-Pacific