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Commentary | Washington should not treat Pacific Islands as its own backyard

Source:Xinhua 2024-04-07

Rather than genuinely addressing the needs and concerns of Pacific Island countries, Washington is using them as mere pawns in its geopolitical game.

SYDNEY, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Having been cold-shouldering Pacific Island countries for decades, Washington recently made a sudden knock on their door with empty rhetoric and beguiling pledges to "have their backs."

"We're giving them those other choices. And those other choices mean having the U.S. have their backs, having the U.S. standing with them side by side as they address some of the challenges that China is forcing upon them," U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a think tank event early this week.

This Sinophobic rhetoric is not just disingenuous but downright insulting. Stuck in the perilous logic of zero-sum competition, the United States has been bent on sabotaging exchanges and cooperation between China and Pacific Island countries.

It also exposes the self-serving nature of American foreign policy, which prioritizes strategic advantage over genuine partnership and solidarity.

In its engagements with Pacific Island countries, whether through senior official visits, the establishment of new embassies, organizing high-level meetings, or promising aid that has yet to materialize, the United States seems fixated on one overarching objective: countering China.

This singular focus on countering China raises questions about the United States' true motivations and priorities in the Pacific region.

Rather than genuinely addressing the needs and concerns of Pacific Island countries, Washington is using them as mere pawns in its geopolitical game. This approach not only undermines trust but also perpetuates a pattern of exploiting smaller nations for its strategic gains.

Despite Washington's hollow assurances of solidarity with Pacific Island nations, U.S. actions have only deepened the trust deficit it faces in the region. The failure to fulfill numerous promises has further eroded confidence in the United States' commitment to its Pacific partners.

The enduring scars from the 67 nuclear tests conducted in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 also serve as a damning indictment of U.S. credibility. Decades later, the environmental and health repercussions continue to plague the region, underscoring the lasting harm caused by U.S. actions.

Turning a blind eye to its disgraceful past, the United States has been pushing forward its Indo-Pacific Strategy, the AUKUS partnership on nuclear-powered submarines, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the Partners in the Blue Pacific Initiative to lure more Pacific Island countries into its anti-China scheme.

But Pacific Island countries display a sound judgment about what they need.

Chinese-built stadiums, roads, bridges, telecommunication towers, and other infrastructure have delivered concrete benefits to local communities, and medical services from Chinese doctors have greatly improved their well-being.

In 2022 the Solomon Islands signed a framework agreement with China on bilateral security cooperation, and the two sides established a comprehensive strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development for a new era in the following year.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare hailed forging diplomatic relations with China as one of the most significant decisions the Solomon Islands has made over the last 45 years since its independence.

Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has also conveyed a clear-cut position of not wanting to pick a side between China and the United States.

China has no intention to jostle with any country for influence in the Asia-Pacific region, nor does it attach any political strings to coerce others into cooperation. Smearing China will not cure the United States of its own trust deficit.

With independent sovereignty, Pacific Island countries are no one's backyard. The vast Pacific Ocean should be seen as a grand platform for global collaboration, rather than a battleground for political power tussles.

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