The diplomatic war rages in the Pacific between the United States and China. American President Joe Biden, who has led this offensive against Beijing since his arrival at the White House in 2021, announced Monday September 25 that he officially recognized two Pacific territories, the Cook Islands and Niue, as “sovereign and independent states”. . The same day he received in Washington, for the second consecutive year, numerous leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum*, which brings together 18 independent states and associated territories of Oceania.
More than ever, faced with Chinese economic and military expansionism in this vast area of the Pacific, the United States wants to strengthen its presence and influence. “This summit aims to strengthen ties with the Pacific Islands,” said the White House, “and to see how we can respond to the many challenges of climate change, economic growth and sustainable development. »
So many themes that particularly affect the small Cook Islands and Niue. The latter, discovered in 1774 by Captain James Cook, became a British protectorate in 1900 and administered as such by New Zealand, 2,400 kilometers away. On October 19, 1974, Niue (1,700 inhabitants), like the Cook Islands, entered into a free association agreement with New Zealand and therefore still does not have international sovereignty, although the island has began to establish its own foreign policy.
Significant US economic aid to the region
Concerning the Cook Islands (17,000 inhabitants), economic opportunities are rare, and its inhabitants live more in New Zealand. Joe Biden recalled in his press release that the United States had built airport runways there and that the official recognition of this archipelago will in particular make it possible to better fight against illegal fishing and climate change, two concerns common to many micro -Pacific States. His administration has pledged to provide nearly $800 million in aid over the next ten years. Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will open a new mission in Fiji, which will cover all aid programs in nine Pacific countries.
After having abandoned the Pacific nations since the 1990s and after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, the United States wants to make up for the lost time during which China was engulfed, economically, diplomatically and militarily, throughout this area.
This year, Washington opened new embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, strengthened its partnership agreements with Micronesia and Palau and signed a defense agreement with Papua New Guinea. “It is obvious that China plays a certain role in all of this,” admitted a senior White House official to Agence France-Presse. And that its ambitions and its influence in this region are a reason for us to continue our strategic offensive. »