Updated February 29th, 2024 at 18:12 IST

Growing Chinese influence in Pacific sparks alarm as Kiribati turns to Beijing for policing

US lawmakers and officials express concern over Kiribati's decision to accept police assistance from China, fearing potential risks to the island's sovereignty.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
The State Department warns about the implications of security cooperation with China, highlighting the need to safeguard autonomy. | Image:AP
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Washington: Concerns have been raised by US lawmakers and officials regarding the decision by the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati to utilize police assistance from China, as reported by Voice of America. The move, which sees a Chinese police delegation aiding Kiribati's community policing program and IT department, has drawn scrutiny from US lawmakers amidst fears of potential risks to the island's sovereignty. 

The State Department issued a warning highlighting the potential risks associated with security cooperation with China, particularly emphasizing the implications for Kiribati's sovereignty. A spokesperson raised concerns about the importation of security forces from China, underscoring the need for caution in navigating security agreements that could compromise a nation's autonomy. 

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Growing Chinese influence raises alarm 

The decision by Kiribati to seek Chinese policing assistance has heightened concerns among US lawmakers about Beijing's expanding influence in the Pacific region. Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party, cautioned against the erosion of democracy and urged increased engagement with Pacific partners to counteract Chinese influence.

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Credit- AP

Amidst growing Chinese engagement in the Pacific, US lawmakers stressed the importance of sustained American involvement to counterbalance Beijing's assertiveness. Emphasizing initiatives like the Compacts of Free Association (COFA), lawmakers underscored the significance of reaffirming American commitments to freedom and democracy in the region, particularly in light of economic pressures faced by Pacific allies from Beijing. 

Why Pacific Island nations are of strategic importance 

Situated between the US, China, and Australia, Pacific Island nations hold considerable strategic significance for security and defense. While the US has historically maintained influence and a military presence in the region, China has intensified efforts to bolster ties through aid, development, and security cooperation. Concerns were raised following Solomon Islands' 2022 security pact with China, sparking international apprehension over Beijing's potential military ambitions in the region.

 

In response to growing Chinese influence, both the US and Australia have stepped up diplomatic efforts in the Pacific region. The US has pledged increased aid and reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands, while Australia has emerged as a leading source of bilateral loans to Pacific Island countries. Re-engagement efforts are seen as crucial in countering Chinese assertiveness and upholding regional stability and security. 

Pacific leaders have expressed optimism about future US engagement in the region, with expectations of a visit by President Joe Biden in the near future. Despite ongoing debates over funding for Pacific allies and concerns about Chinese influence, the imperative for decisive action to uphold regional stability remains paramount as geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve in the Pacific. 

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 18:12 IST