Pacific Islands Embassy Act Becomes Law, Increasing U.S. Influence in the Region

The Pacific Islands Embassy Act, included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023, is now enacted into law, promoting a stronger U.S. presence in the Pacific Islands region where China seeks to expand its influence. doing.

The bill aims to establish three US embassies in the Pacific island nations of Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu.of Specification Secure $40.2 million in fiscal 2023 for the construction and maintenance of the embassy. An additional $3 million was approved for maintenance costs for fiscal 2024. This obliges him to establish an embassy within two years of the enactment of the law.

The bill was introduced in the House and Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Senator John Ossoff (D-Gaga) and Todd Young (R-Indiana) were the sponsors of the bill in the Senate. It was supported by Senators Mazzy Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tn.).

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) sponsored relevant legislation in the House.

“As the Chinese Communist Party sets its sights on the Indo-Pacific, it is vital that the United States strengthens its strategic partnership to counter the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the region,” Blackburn said Dec. 29. said in a document of the day. news release“This step to add a U.S. diplomatic presence to the Pacific islands is an important element in deepening our shared values ​​of freedom and democracy and ensuring the continued security of the United States and our partners. “

During a visit to the Pacific Island nations earlier this year, Blackburn spoke to local leaders about the importance of increasing the U.S. diplomatic presence in the region.

Significance of the Pacific Islands

Covering 15% of the world’s surface area, the islands of the Pacific control important routes such as supply lines to forward-deployed U.S. forces in East Asia, sea lanes to the Western Hemisphere, and economically important fisheries.

The Pacific Islands Region includes 11 US territories, Hawaii, Andersen Air Force Base, and Naval Base Guam.

China seeks to increase its influence in the region through a security pact with the Solomon Islands and infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative.

According to the bill, Washington will provide diplomatic services in Vanuatu, Tonga, and Kiribati “to deepen ties, protect U.S. national security, and ensure the physical and operational security of efforts to pursue U.S. national interests.” need to maintain a positive presence. .

Chinese influence

September 20th report Chinese officials have not publicly stated that the Pacific islands are an area of ​​significant interest to Beijing, but have noted that the region is of great importance to the Asian nation, according to the U.S. Peace Institute. There is

The region offers a “low investment, high reward” opportunity for strategic, tactical and symbolic victories for the Chinese regime as it pushes its global agenda.

Some believe that the Pacific nations are strategically neglected, receiving low-level engagement from powers such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

This has created a geopolitical void that “China is trying to fill using a playbook it has honed elsewhere in the world: foreign aid, private sector investment and lending, sustained high-level diplomacy and, in some cases, tools to capture elites, such as corruption and economic coercion,” the report said.

China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands should not be alarming, but should be “viewed with concern,” the report said.

Naveen Aslapury

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events for The Epoch Times.