Kurt Campbell says US to step up Pacific efforts
He said a delegation would return to Solomon Islands for follow-up talks in September, and “we will also continue our conversations with Australian friends more directly”.
But Campbell also noted that while many countries were committed to safeguarding the Pacific, “there is not as much coordination among some of those countries as you might expect”.
“Given the new strategic circumstances that we are facing, it is essential to step up co-ordination, engagement, partnership, and sharing of information,” he said.
“We want very much to be able to be in a situation that we can work together to promote the well-being of the Pacific Islanders, and that is a multifaceted, multi-year substantial effort that’s going to be necessary among all of our countries.”
Campbell’s comments come as Biden prepares to host a summit for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Washington on Friday, where he is expected to pitch his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to deepen America’s presence in Asia. Talks on education, infrastructure and technology will also be on the agenda.
The President will also visit South Korea and Japan from May 20-24, which will include a meeting in Tokyo of the Quad group of countries – Australia, India, Japan and the US.
With 10 days until the election, the pact between Solomon Islands and China has placed regional and national security at the heart of the campaign, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese describing Australia’s slowness to act as “one of the greatest policy failures that we’ve seen from this government” and the Morrison government defending its approach, which focuses on respecting the Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision-making.
Almost 30 years after closing its embassy in Solomon Islands, the US will fast-track opening a new embassy, and focus its efforts on addressing climate change, unexploded mines in Guadacanal, and COVID, Campbell said.
The US will also soon announce plans to better tackle illegal fishing in the Pacific in the face of China’s vast fishing fleet, he added, which some countries say often breach their exclusive economic zones and cause environmental damage.
The plans would involve “looking at capabilities that will continue to track shipping” when vessels fishing illegally turn off electronic identifiers.
The Biden administration would also work with US AID and the new US International Development Finance Corporation to fund projects in the region, as well as restore the Peace Corps nation-building organisation to much of the area.
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