The US secretary of state has warned leaders of Pacific countries about “threats to the rules-based international order” and “economic coercion”, in what appears to be a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence in the region.
Antony Blinken was addressing leaders and their delegates from 11 Pacific countries and territories including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Palau and Marshall Islands as part of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, which is held in Hawaii.
Blinken reiterated US support for Pacific island nations as they face the “shared challenges that we have to confront together”, including Covid-19 and the climate crisis. He also appeared to make a criticism of Australia action on the climate crisis, calling for “all countries, particularly the biggest emitters, to swiftly and dramatically reduce emissions.”
But the main focus of his televised address was China’s growing influence in the region.
“Economic coercion across the region is on the rise. The US is all for more development and investment in the islands, but that investment should adhere to international standards for environmentally and socially sustainable development and should be pursued transparently, with public consultation,” he said. “And every country, no matter its size, should always be able to make choices without fear of retribution.”