Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Small and Pacific Island States
Cleo Paskal: The Pacific Games start in Solomons on November 19th. What happens after needs careful watching. The Games have been used as a excuse by PM Sogavare to delay elections, have his police get security training from China (and Australia) and secure Chinese crowd control gear including drones. PRC hands over 5M security equipment and materials to RSPIF
There has also been an increase in the pace of visits between China and Solomons leaders. Sogavare went to China in July, saying upon landing in China “I’m back home”.
A high level Chinese delegation, led by the deputy head of the CCP’s central committee international department just visited Solomons.
And all Solomon’s provincial premiers (like U.S. state governors) just went to China for two weeks. All of them.
The country is scheduled to have the delayed elections in the months after the Games. Given the investment by Beijing in its new proxies, Sogavare’s domestic unpopularity, and the networks being set up and underpinned by the Solomon Islands – China security agreement, the people of Solomons might need some help to make sure the elections happen, and are free and fair.
Pro-China candidate Mohamed Muizzu wins Maldives presidency, upending relationship with India
Runoff vote was widely seen as a referendum on whether to pursue closer ties with China or India, both vying for influence in the island nation
(The Guardian) Pro-China candidate Mohamed Muizzu won Saturday’s presidential election in the Maldives, a result set to once again upend the archipelago’s relationship with traditional partner India.
Muizzu helms a party that presided over an influx of Chinese loans when it last held power in the atoll nation, better known for its luxury beach resorts and celebrity tourists.
He won over 54% of the vote in the run-off contest, prompting incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to concede defeat shortly before midnight.
Biden pledges $40bn to Pacific islands as summit seeks to reassert influence
Leaders of Pacific island states have been given star treatment in Washington but Chinese influence is the spectre at the feast
(The Guardian) Joe Biden has offered $40bn in economic aid to Pacific islands at a White House meeting with leaders from the region aimed at bolstering US engagement in the face of growing a growing Chinese presence.
The president also announced formal US recognition of two new island nations, the Cook Islands and Niue, at the start of the Pacific Islands Forum, two days of Washington meetings with leaders from the group’s 18 members.
“The United States committed to ensuring an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous and secure. We’re committed to working with all the nations around this table to achieve that goal,” Biden said at the forum’s welcoming ceremony.
Biden seeks to win over Pacific leaders as Solomon Islands turns back on talks
‘Historic’ summit seen as part of effort to counter Beijing in the region as Pacific leaders seek more support on climate change
US President Joe Biden aims to wrest influence from China in Pacific islands
The Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ conference will take place Monday and Tuesday, one year after the inaugural gathering, which was also held in Washington
(FirstPost) According to senior administration sources, Biden will propose a more robust US posture in the region, as well as money for infrastructure projects and greater marine cooperation, particularly to combat illicit fishing.
The forum brings together governments and territories from Australia to sparsely inhabited micro-states and archipelagos spread throughout the Pacific Ocean.
There is “no question that there is some role that the PRC has played in all this…. its assertiveness and influence, including in this region, has been a factor that requires us to sustain our strategic focus,” a senior White House official said on condition of anonymity, referring to China by the abbreviation of its formal name.
Cleo Paskal writes:
“There are urgent, serious problems with renewals of agreements that underpin U.S. Pacific defense architecture. On 1 October, it’s possible civil aviation services, disaster assistance, weather service, and more will lose their authorities and funding to operate in the three U.S. Freely Associated States (FAS): Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI).
This not only severely affects the lives and security of some of the U.S.’ closest allies, it plays into PRC political warfare that the U.S. is an unreliable ally. Two of the three countries recognize Taiwan, and both have elections coming up.
There are many reasons for the problems, but two are key. One is very longstanding – U.S. compensation for the 67 nuclear tests the U.S. conducted in Marshalls. The other is immediate – budget standoff in the House.
This is a developing story.
US designs new security architecture to respond to the rise of China and the war in Ukraine
Washington is strengthening traditional alliances such as NATO, while in the Asia Pacific it is forging new networks with more limited objectives
Pacific islands warn US over Chinese threat and urge Biden to increase aid
GOP-led House committee convenes on Guam as officials say Beijing working to ‘fill perceived voids in America’s assistance’
(The Guardian) Countering China and bolstering national security dominated the conversation in a Hilton hotel on Guam, 15 hours before and oceans away from the Milwaukee arena hosting the first Republican primary debate.
Nine members of the GOP-led House committee on natural resources convened in the US-governed Pacific island territory for a rare field hearing – during the summer recess – on countering China’s influence in the region.
At a time when Democrats and Republicans view China as an economic and global security threat, island nations who offer the US military proximity to China in exchange for aid emphasized they are especially vulnerable to Chinese cyber-attacks and economic exploitation as they struggle to recover from the pandemic.
Showing up is half the battle, and the United States is doing so in the Pacific Islands
By Parker Novak
(Atlantic Council) As the Pacific Islands’ relevance to US foreign policy continues to grow, so does the number of high-level visits to the region by US officials. Over the past three months alone, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff collectively traveled to Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa, and Tonga.
US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s visit this week to Papua New Guinea and Fiji is another example of this trend. …
While in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, Power announced a ramped-up USAID regional presence, including the formal elevation of its mission in Port Moresby and re-establishment of its regional mission in Suva. In addition, Power announced new funding for development programs in Papua New Guinea. Through these announcements, she signaled the centrality of soft power to the United States’ regional strategy—and that Washington is making a conscious effort to meet the development needs of Pacific Islanders.
In the Pacific Islands, soft power isn’t viewed as distinct from hard power; in fact, they’re viewed as one and the same. Issues like economic growth and human development are seen as security issues, as evidenced by the Boe Declaration, which was adopted during the 2018 Pacific islands Forum in Nauru. The declaration calls for “an expanded concept of security inclusive of human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritizing environmental security, and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change.”
Thus, a comprehensive regional strategy cannot be just about hard power. To succeed, the United States needs to use its full suite of civilian and defense tools—what former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described as a “symphony of power”—to advance an agenda that bolsters the region’s prosperity and resilience. This approach is reflected in the Biden administration’s Pacific Partnership Strategy, which was released during the September 2022 US-Pacific Island Country Summit at the White House.
The United States is following through on commitments made and showing that it’s in the region to stay. Along with USAID’s stepped-up presence, Washington has opened new embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga; renewed Compacts of Free Association with Micronesia and Palau (pending congressional approval); inked a defense agreement with Papua New Guinea (pending parliamentary approval); and more. It should continue pushing forward with these efforts, especially in the run-up to the leader’s summit scheduled for September, and it should work with allies and partners to maximize impact.
Crucially, the United States is also making progress on promised funding for development programs. This includes the Economic Assistance Agreement (EAA) associated with the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which supports fisheries’ economic development, collaboration on climate resilience, the blue economy, and maritime security—all of which are crucial issues for the Pacific Islands.
Welcome to the latest installment in our side-by-side comparison of why China is winning the ground game in the Pacific Islands: Soft Power Edition.
The U.S. has opened an Embassy in Tonga
One of the understandings was the U.S. would at least set up consular camps so that Tongans didn’t have to pay to fly to Fiji to apply for visas to the U.S. The late, great diplomat Amb. C. Steven McGann made it happen, for a while, and then it stopped.
The new Embassy doesn’t offer consular services. Nor does it have an Ambassador. The U.S. has said perhaps that will come.
Also, the Embassy seems to have been ‘officially’ opened at a time that was convenient for Sec. Blinken to attend the opening, which sounds like a good idea, but it was at a time the King of Tonga couldn’t attend.
What might all this look like to Tongans? For the average Tongan, not much has changed. They still have to go to Fiji for visas. The signaling about Sec. Blinken being there but not the King implies the timing was for the convenience of the U.S. not Tonga (for many, the King is the symbol of the nation).
But, the fact is, not many Tongans are thinking about the opening at all. It was spectacularly overshadowed by the arrival a few days later by the PLA medical ship Peace Ark.
The Peace Ark was greeted by a Tongan military band, traditional singing and dancing, and flag waving ethnic Chinese in Tonga. Interestingly, the welcome banner is in Mandarin and Tongan – no English.
They don’t even bother messaging to the U.S. anymore.
China’s hospital ship visits Tonga amid growing competition in the Pacific
(The Guardian) Thousands of people in Tonga have sought medical treatment from a Chinese naval hospital ship docked in the capital, as many praised the free services provided by Beijing which come at a time of increasing competition with the US and its allies for influence in the region.
Why the world is suddenly wooing Papua New Guinea
Its poor, troubled islands return to the forefront of the big powers’ strategic thinking
(The Economist) …the harbour of Port Moresby has probably not seen such military buzz since the second world war, when it was bloodily defended by America and Australia against Japanese forces. The JS Izumo, the largest ship in the Japanese navy, visited the capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG) earlier this month, as did a British naval-patrol vessel, HMS Tamar. A French one, La Glorieuse, called earlier in the year. An American coast-guard cutter is due next month.
On land, too, visiting dignitaries are tripping over each other. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, flew in to host a regional forum in May. Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, came in July. The most important caller of the year was meant to be the American president, Joe Biden, but he cancelled the trip in May because of trouble back home over America’s debt ceiling. Instead two senior lieutenants have come in close succession. Antony Blinken, the American secretary of state, signed a defence co-operation agreement with PNG in May. Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary, followed up on July 26th-27th. He was scarcely noticed, though. As Mr Austin stepped off his E4-B, a flying military-command post, Port Moresby airport was bedecked with French flags and posters welcoming Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who arrived the next day.
Politics Risk Derailing One of America’s Most Important Strategic Agreements
China is the biggest winner from the current train wreck that is the Marshall Islands–United States COFA negotiations.
(The Diplomat) Of the Pacific Island states, the three countries that are unquestionably the closest allies of the United States are the Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
The closeness of the relationship between the United States and each of the three is legally captured in the Compact of Free Association (COFA) each of them has with Washington.
…the area involved is enormous, and strategically essential. The three countries are contiguous and cover a section of the Central Pacific the size of the United States. The uncontested operational environment granted to the U.S. by the COFAs allows the U.S. to deploy unimpeded from roughly Hawaii to the Philippines.
Cleo Paskal: Spoke with John Batchelor about the background and strategic importance of PM Modi’s ‘reunion’ with Pacific Islands leaders, and U.S. Congressional interest in the region. Also covered the U.S.-PNG defense deal, updates on the COFA agreements, and more. Things are moving fast.
CBS EYE ON THE WORLD WITH JOHN BATCHELOR
#Oceania: Congress listens to what needs to be done. Cleo Paskal, FDD. (audio)
Oversight Hearing | Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee
House Committee on Natural Resources GOP
Modi goes to PNG – why it matters to the region and Australia
Cleo Paskal, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defence of Democracies and Anthony Bergin, Strategic Analysis Australia
The background to the visit by Modi to PNG, the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the country, really started in 2014 when he visited Fiji and met for the first time with Pacific Island leaders. They announced a range of initiatives, including the much-appreciated e-visa option for Pacific Island visitors to India.
A second meeting of what became known as the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation was held in Jaipur in 2015. After that there was little movement. Other urgent and geographically closer issues dominated India’s Ministry of External Affairs. At the same time, for many overstretched Pacific governments, funding for exploratory missions to India hasn’t been a priority in the absence of strong interest from Delhi. And there was Covid.
But recently there’s been a surge in attention being paid to the region at the highest levels in India. There are many reasons, including concern over China’s destabilising actions in the Pacific Islands region affecting the goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and India’s leadership position in the G20 this year resulting in Delhi looking to create new opportunities for itself and other nations caught in a complex economic environment.
… Chinese political influence and interference in the Pacific often enters the body politics via economic pathways. India is the only Quad country that can compete economically with China in sectors that are of prime importance to the Pacific Islands.
India has pioneered village-scale economies, low cost yet reliable and robust technologies, along with affordable pharmaceuticals, medical care, renewable energy systems, and tertiary education—and all of it largely available in English. India has highly trained personnel accustomed to working in difficult conditions that require adaptability and improvisation. India offers fresh hope to the Pacific that the island states don’t have to be bullied by China’s political warfare campaign to obtain economic benefits.
India has a lot to offer. But to really make it work there should be flights between India and the Pacific Islands. An Oceania House should be established in Delhi so island countries that can’t afford to set up their own missions could post representatives in India. Indian diplomatic representation in the region could be expanded, perhaps through a network of honorary consuls.
PM Modi announces 12-point action plan to keep China at bay in Pacific islands
US, India hold parallel summit meetings with 14 Pacific island nations on same day
(The Tribune India) In a rare tandem move to minimise Chinese influence, the US and India held parallel Summit meetings with 14 Pacific Island Countries on the same day in the capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG). PM Narendra Modi announced a 12-point action plan concentrated in health, wellness and community development sectors while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing in for President Joe Biden, inked pacts in defence and security areas with PNG.
In a special gesture to PM Modi, the New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flew 9,000 kms to meet him although one half of his schedule – a bilateral with Biden – was called off after the US President flew home from the Japan G7 summit to resolve the US debt crises.
Just announced 12-step action plan to strengthen India-Pacific Islands partnership. Focus on health, education, energy, SME development – the sort of things the PICs have said they needed for a long time. It includes dialysis units. This will literally be a life saver for many in the region.
Two other points are examples of India sharing proven domestic low cost initiatives that will have immediate positive effect in families and communities.
The Jaipur Foot Camp provides and fits durable prosthetics free of charge. https://lnkd.in/dVnq5GjA
Jan Aushadi Kendras provide low cost generic pharmaceuticals. https://lnkd.in/djdBAKMN
US and Papua New Guinea set to sign security agreement amid Pacific militarisation concerns
(The Guardian) US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in PNG early on Monday, travelling in Joe Biden’s place after the US president was forced to cancel his plans to make a brief but historic stop there to sign the pact. Biden would have become the first sitting US president to visit a Pacific island, but he cancelled to focus on the debt limit talks in Washington, sparking concerns about how reliable a partner the US is in the Pacific.
G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué
6. … Given the importance of the region, G7 members and our partners have taken respective Indo-Pacific initiatives to help strengthen our engagement. We underscore our commitment to strengthen coordination with regional partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states. We reaffirm our unwavering support for ASEAN centrality and unity and our commitment to promoting cooperation in line with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We also reaffirm our partnership with Pacific Island countries and reiterate the importance of supporting their priorities and needs in accordance with the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. We welcome and further encourage efforts made by the private sector, universities and think tanks, which contribute to realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Cleo Paskal testimony to the Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee of the US House Committee on Natural Resources on behalf of The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)
Preserving U.S. Interests in the Indo-Pacific
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Republic of Palau are, by far, the United States’ most supportive strategic allies.
Through their Compacts of Free Association (COFAs) with the United States, the three Freely Associated States (FAS) have voluntarily granted the United States uniquely extensive defense and security access in their sovereign territories. In the words of the Compacts: “The Government of the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters in or relating to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia [and Palau].”
Given the locations of the FAS, the Compacts have come to form the often-unacknowledged foundation of the United States’ defense architecture in the Pacific. With their thousand-plus scattered islands and atolls, the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the three countries combine to cover a contiguous maritime area larger than the continental United States, right through the heart of the Central Pacific.
How Indonesia and Australia view South Korea’s “everything, everywhere, all at once” Indo-Pacific strategy
(Brookings) South Korea now brands itself as a “Global Pivotal State that actively seeks out an agenda for cooperation and shapes discussions in the region and the wider world.” Its expanded vision is vast; its Indo-Pacific strategy speaks of reaching … to the Pacific Islands….
Of specific interest to Canberra is the strategy’s intent to increase engagement with the Pacific Islands, a region where Australia considers itself to be part of “
a strong and unified Pacific family.” Seoul’s planned investment in climate change, health, oceans and fisheries, and renewable energy dovetails with Australia’s foreign policy priorities in the Pacific Islands.
A cynical view of South Korea’s newfound enthusiasm for the Pacific Islands sees it as an extension of increasing U.S.-China strategic competition in the region. Pacific Island leaders are cognizant of these dynamics but are neither interested in taking sides nor being dictated to by stronger powers. As Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare
put it, his country is “friends to all, enemy to none.” As such, whether nudged by the United States or largely of its own accord, South Korea’s decision to turn attention and resources would be welcomed by Australia (and New Zealand).
Cleo Paskal: Former Malaita Premier (and Noted China Critic) Gets Bipartisan Support for US Visa
Daniel Suidani became a symbol of resistance to China’s influence in Solomon Islands – until he was ousted from his post.
Why so much attention on a visa case for a former provincial premier from a country of less than a million people? It’s because rarely does a single person come to embody the future of a region, of the battle between systems, as much as Suidani has.
How a small island got world’s highest court to take on climate justice
(WaPo) The small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu won a major victory to advance international climate law Wednesday after it persuaded the U.N. General Assembly to ask the world’s highest international court to rule on the obligations of countries to address climate change.
The request for an advisory ruling from the International Court of Justice is expected to clarify the legal obligations of countries to address climate change — and to create a path for them to be sued if they fail to do so. The U.N. effort was a significant outcome for Vanuatu, an archipelago nation of 320,000 people that is suffering from climate-change-driven natural disasters. In recent weeks, it was hit by two Category 4 cyclones, the severity of which its leaders blamed on global warming. Thousands of people are still living in shelters.
Wednesday’s decision was also a measure of how much global attitudes about the urgency of addressing climate change have shifted in recent years. A similar effort in 2011 by two other island nations, Palau and the Marshall Islands, failed at the United Nations. This time, Vanuatu obtained co-sponsorship from more than 120 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and other industrialized nations with a long history of high emissions.
China firm wins Solomon Islands port project as Australia watches on
(Reuters) – The Solomon Islands has awarded a multi-million-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, an official of the island nation said on Wednesday.
The port reconstruction deal is part of a $170-million project funded by the ADB to upgrade roads and wharves, which saw CCECC awarded the roads component in 2022.
“This will see the rehabilitation of the old Honiara international port and construction of the Honiara domestic port and two provincial ports,” the Solomon Islands government said in a statement.
Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, who was among 10 Pacific island leaders who declined to sign a regional security and trade pact with China in June, told reporters in Australia “this is a commercial port, although I think the fears are it might morph into something else… dual purpose”.
“Other countries also have military or naval stations within the region,” she added.
Cleo Paskal: Micronesia’s President Writes Bombshell Letter on China’s ‘Political Warfare’
(The Diplomat) David Panuelo, the [outgoing] president of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has written a letter to FSM leaders providing extraordinary details on Beijing’s political warfare and grey zone activity in the country – and outlining a potential agreement to switch FSM’s diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan.
Panuelo has a track record among world leaders of being exceptionally astute, open, and direct in his analysis of China’s behavior and actions. … On March 7, FSM held elections and, as a result, Panuelo has just two months left in his term. For reasons he explains in his letter, he clearly intends to try to use the time to safeguard his nation from what he sees as threats emanating from Beijing.
He writes that a core threat to FSM is China’s stated intention to invade Taiwan. “The FSM has a key role to play in either the prevention of such a conflict, or participation in allowing it to occur,” Panuelo explains. “It is on this basis that Political Warfare and Grey Zone activity occur within our borders; China is seeking to ensure that, in the event of a war in our Blue Pacific Continent between themselves and Taiwan, that the FSM is, at best, aligned with the PRC (China) instead of the United States and, at worst, that the FSM chooses to ‘abstain’ altogether.”
China names special envoy to Pacific Islands as rivalry with US heats up in region
China has significantly increased its presence in Oceania over the past two decades. It has become a major trading partner and investor in the region while courting several island nations through engagements and frequent visits by senior officials.
(SCMP) The new post is an upgrade from Beijing’s special envoy to the China-Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Dialogue – a position that has existed since the 2000s. The PIF is a regional organisation that includes Pacific Island nations as well as Australia and New Zealand.
China only appoints permanent special envoys for regions or issues of particular interest or concern, such as the Korean peninsula, Horn of Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan, Syria and climate change.
Qian Bo, the Chinese ambassador to Fiji, takes on title reserved for most pressing diplomatic issues, such as climate change and the Middle East
Beijing and Washington are competing for influence over the island nations in trade, investment, security and diplomacy
Cleo Paskal comments: China has appointed a “special envoy of the Chinese government” to the Pacific Islands. These post are for areas of particular focus. As an envoy of the entire government rather than, as is often the case, of just the Foreign Ministry, he may have greater access to a larger toolkit to use to expand China’s Comprehensive National Power in the region.
“India Can Give China A Run For Its Money In The Pacific Islands” (YouTube)
New Delhi: On ‘Talking Point’, Cleo Paskal, Non-Resident Senior Fellow focussing on the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi
No one is helping us in our fight against PRC: Daniel Suidani
By Cleo Paskal
(Sunday Guardian) Last week, China, in partnership with local proxies, successfully took out one of the CCP’s most effective and respected critics—Daniel Suidani of Malaita Province (exclusive interview below). In the process, Beijing executed regime change in Solomon Islands with no visible resistance from any of the countries or organizations who claim to support democracy.
The implications can’t be underestimated. The PRC now has a high profile solid example when it tells proto-authoritarians around the world that it can help them get rid of pesky opposition with little geopolitical cost. And those willing to stand up to PRC aggression are realizing they might be doing it on their own—in spite of all those fine press releases and workshops from Canberra, Wellington, and Washington about the importance of democracy.
This was not a surprise outcome. The Sunday Guardian has been covering this case, as it developed, for years. Our Indo-Pacific: Behind the Headlines interview below with Premier Suidani goes into some of the details of what just happened and what it means. But for those hearing about the case for the first time now, here is some background.
Kiribati rejoins collective of Pacific Island states after ‘crisis’ withdrawal period
(The World) The island nation of Kiribati says it will return to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), ending more than six months of turmoil for the strategic bloc that represents nearly 20 nations and territories across the Pacific Ocean.
It was widely speculated that China had been behind Kiribati’s leaving; though it remained unproven. In 2019, Kiribati switched its allegiance from Taiwan to mainland China, evidence of Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific and its more than 2 million people.
The Pacific Islands Forum works well because its members don’t align with any specific big player, [Moetai Brotherson, a member of French Polynesia’s Assembly] said.
Established in 1971, the Pacific Island Forum gives leaders spread out across 15% of the earth’s surface a place to meet and discuss ideas.
“And this is why the forum is really important because it is the collective voice of all the small island states, so they can negotiate bargains with the global superpowers,” said Collin Tukuitonga, of University of Auckland.
The body, which tries to rely on negotiation and consensus has, over the years, tackled critical issues such as a nuclear-free Pacific, climate change and protecting the region’s economic interests, he said. They’ve also started a shipping line and supported the only regional university — the University of the South Pacific.
The 2050 Strategy for The Blue Pacific Continent, the Multilateral Trading System and Fisheries Subsidies
Remarks by WTO DDG Angela Ellard
(WTO) It is a pleasure to welcome you to this High-level Pacific Region Event on fisheries subsidies. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the Government of Fiji and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for their gracious hosting of a very useful week, culminating in today’s ministerial meeting.
The timing and focus of this event could not be better. The event comes soon after both the successful outcome on fisheries subsidies at the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference, or MC12, as well as the adoption of the comprehensive 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders. I see many synergies between these two historic achievements, paving the way toward a sustainable, prosperous, and resilient Pacific region, which is critical for the health of the environment and all people. The future of the WTO is green, digital, and about services, which responds to your priorities in the Strategy. Your Strategy is comprehensive and aligns with WTO’s work. You are well-placed and prepared to shape the future of WTO’s work. And we are here to help you mainstream and anchor these elements through WTO commitments for all.
‘Quad needs to befriend Bougainville, not just Papua New Guinea’
‘China may be getting ready to do in PNG what it has already pulled off in the Solomon Islands. Is it really smart for Australia, let alone its diplomatic friends in the Quad to bet everything on PNG?’
(Sunday Guardian) While Bougainville, an archipelago of approximately 200 islands, is geographically part of the Solomon Islands, it is currently a political unit of PNG. Even though PNG and Bougainville are both part of Melanesia, a culturally distinct region of the Pacific running roughly in parallel with Australia’s northeast coast, the populations of the two areas have significant differences.
… In the December 2019 vote, 97.7% of Bougainvilleans voted for independence. … Running on a platform emphasizing independence, Ishmael Toroama was elected Bougainville’s President one year later.
According to the Peace Agreement, the independence referendum is not binding. In the subsequent joint supervisory board meetings, a series of quarterly sessions involving negotiations between President Toroama and the current Prime Minister of PNG, James Marape, the two sides have staked out their positions.
Not surprisingly, Ishmael’s stance has never wavered: His people, who waited politely and followed the rules, have spoken. Independence for Bougainville is, in their eyes, finally inevitable.
…It may be true that if Australia and other Western powers don’t pay more attention to PNG, China will. The PRC has already underwritten PNG’s APEC 2018 soiree, its state-owned-enterprises are dominant players in PNG’s precious minerals and oil & gas industries, and totally control other major industries like fishing as well.
Q: What should be the response of the Quad? Is there a role for India?
A: Indeed, China may be getting ready to do in PNG what it has already pulled off in the Solomon Islands. If there’s a risk of that happening, is it really smart for Australia, let alone its diplomatic friends in the Quad, including the United States, Japan, and India, to bet everything on PNG?
Perhaps the Quad should hedge its bets. What about giving both PNG and Bougainville a shot at befriending the Quad in the South Pacific? Everyone knows that the best deepwater port in the region isn’t in the county named the Solomon Islands: it’s in Arawa, on Bougainville Island.
Joe Biden Endorses ‘free And Open’ Indo-Pacific After Key Pacific Islands Summit
(Republic World) Biden launched Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative this year with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and UK to coordinate with Pacific Islands region.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday endorsed a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, stressing that it shall be stable and prosperous, resilient and secure as he delivered a speech whilst hosting the leaders from the Pacific Island countries. A great deal of the history of the world would be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years and decades, Biden said, adding that the Pacific Islands are a critical voice in shaping the globe’s future.
The US President committed to deepening the enduring partnership with the Pacific Islands countries, saying that America and the region shared a common future and goals. He pledged to tackle the climate crisis in the region, which he noted, “threatens all of us.” He categorically stressed that his administration made it a priority to strengthen partnerships with the Pacific Islands Forum.
Cleo Paskal: US moves on Pacific islands, but barely
The last two weeks have seen some of the most frantic US activity related to the Pacific Islands since the end of World War II. Key events included the September 13th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders in Hawaii, the release of the US Institute of Peace’s report on China’s Influence on the Freely Associated States of the Northern Pacific, the publication of America’s first Pacific Islands Partnership Strategy, and a two-day summit in D.C. for over a dozen Pacific nations that culminated in a dinner with President Joe Biden and a joint declaration.
Amid rising seas, island nations push for legal protections
(AP) — When and if an island nation fully submerges due to rising seas, what happens to the nationalities of its citizens?
This and other related questions are being considered by island nations advocating for changes to international law as climate change threatens their existence.
“Climate change induced sea level rise is a defining issue for many Pacific Island states and like most climate change issues, Pacific Island states have been at the forefront of challenging international law to develop in a way which is equitable and just,” said Fleur Ramsay, head of litigation and climate lead of the Pasifika Program at the Australia-based Environmental Defenders Office.
During a recent [interview] with The Associated Press, Ramsay noted the shortcomings in the development of international law. For example, under international law, there are discussions of nomadic tribes making claims over lands they have historically passed over. However, rights over historical ocean passages have not yet been explored for citizens of island nations.
There is already evidence of loss of islands. Between 1947 and 2014, six smaller islands in the Pacific archipelago of the Solomon Islands completely vanished, according to a paper published in Environment Research Letters in 2016. The study identified the complete loss of reef islands and other islands that were experiencing severe shoreline recession, leading to the relocation of some communities. And in its report earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top body of climate scientists, noted risks to coastal areas and ecosystems due to submergence and flooding through sea level rise and increased height of waves.
The issue of protecting sovereignty is a constant topic of discussion for many Pacific Islands leaders. The maritime and resource entitlements that islands stand to lose in the face of land loss were part of talks during the Pacific Small Island Developing States meetings this week in Apia, Samoa. The meetings came on the heels of last week’s U.N. General Assembly meetings, in which Pacific Island leaders pushed for changes that would protect island nations as they lose territory to erosion and rising sea levels.
US-China competition expands to the Pacific Islands
(GZERO media) Alarmed by China’s progress in extending its influence among a series of strategically located islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this week President Joe Biden is hosting the first-ever US-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington, DC. The White House has invited the leaders of 12 Pacific nations to discuss climate change, economic cooperation, and security ties. We asked Eurasia Group expert Peter Mumford to explain the importance of the event.
Why hold the summit now?
After taking office in early 2021, the Biden administration initially focused its Indo-Pacific diplomatic efforts on longstanding allies Japan and South Korea, as well as on wooing India and strengthening the Quad, a grouping of the US, Japan, India, and Australia. In the second half of the year, it ramped up its engagement with Southeast Asia.
Now it is turning its focus to the Pacific Islands, partly in response to increased Chinese assertiveness in the region and the warnings of a concerned Australia, a key US ally.
The Partners in the Blue Pacific: A New Alliance in the Region
On June 24, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Japan announced the creation of a new cooperation format – The Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) – an inclusive and informal mechanism to more effectively and efficiently support the goals of the Pacific region. This format is keeping with the shared vision of the participating countries on the problems of the region.
The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent
At their 2019 meeting in Tuvalu, Forum Leaders endorsed the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Leaders highlighted their concerns for the region’s enduring challenges such as climate change related impacts, coupled with the intensification of geostrategic competition, exacerbating the region’s existing vulnerabilities.
Download the 2050 Strategy, endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at the 51st PIFLM, July 11-14th, 2022
Statement by Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the Establishment of the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP)
A new initiative for more effective and efficient cooperation in support of Pacific Island priorities
The Pacific Islands region is home to nearly a fifth of the Earth’s surface and many of its most urgent challenges, from the climate crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic to growing pressure on the rules-based free and open international order. It was in this context that the Pacific Islands Forum, the premier driver of regional action, committed to organize its members “as one collective if we are to address our increasingly common challenges.”
As our countries—Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—continue to support prosperity, resilience, and security in the Pacific, we too must harness our collective strength through closer cooperation. To that end, our governments dispatched high-level officials to Washington, D.C. on June 23 and 24 for consultations with Pacific Heads of Mission and other partners, including France, as well as the European Union in its observing capacity. These meetings followed discussions with Pacific partners, including with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; they remain ongoing, including with other partners engaged in the region. Today, our five countries launched an inclusive, informal mechanism to support Pacific priorities more effectively and efficiently: the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP).
Les îles qui disparaissent, un enjeu stratégique
(Le Devoir) On apprenait début mai que cinq îles de l’archipel des Salomon, dans le Pacifique, ont disparu, immergées en raison de la montée des eaux, conséquence du réchauffement climatique. Ces îles étaient inhabitées. Mais de nombreuses autres, habitées celles-là, sont aussi menacées. Loin d’être un phénomène strictement physique, la disparition progressive des îles de l’Océanie, qui sont aussi des pays, soulève d’importants enjeux légaux et stratégiques, explique Cléo Paskal, chercheuse de la Fondation Trudeau invitée au CERIUM.
En gros, deux phénomènes se produisent simultanément, l’un renforçant l’autre de façon exponentielle : la hausse du niveau de la mer, qui évolue lentement, a des effets majeurs sur les tempêtes et les hautes marées, entre autres. Ensuite, le problème n’est pas que l’immersion progressive d’une île, mais aussi l’eau de mer qui s’infiltre dans l’aquifère. Cette eau salée remplace l’eau douce propre à la consommation, mais elle tue aussi la flore, qui tient le sol en place. Résultat : l’érosion s’accélère, rendant ainsi une parcelle de terre encore plus vulnérable aux tempêtes. Un cyclone peut ainsi effacer une île de la carte.
The International Year of Small Island Developing States will celebrate the contributions that this group of countries has made to the world. Small island developing states are home to vibrant and distinct cultures, diversity and heritage.
People of Small Island Developing States are also at the forefront of efforts to addressing pressing global issues through ingenuity, innovation and use of traditional knowledge.
The challenges facing the small island developing States are challenges that confront us all, and they are determined to work with all countries to find solutions that will ensure a brighter future for generations to come.
The Year will also help raise awareness of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will be held in September in Apia, Samoa, and will focus on building partnerships for sustainable development.
Climate Change is a planetary emergency that threatens the survival of many small island states.
For some low lying states like the Maldives, Kiribati, and some of the Bahamas, the risks from sea level rise threaten their physical existence, as they would very easily be inundated by sea levels in excess of one metre above current levels â€“ levels that can be reached by 2100, if significant action is not taken immediately to reduce and ultimately limit the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to well below 350 parts per million (ppm) in the long run.
For other states, their social-economic viability will be compromised,Â inter alia:
By the rising seas which will damage their coastal zones, where the majority of their socio-economic infrastructure is located;
By the saline intrusion into their coastal aquifers which will negatively impact on their drinking water and agricultural activities;
By the destruction to their coral reefs and their fisheries habitats that result from increases in ocean acidification and rising temperatures; and
By the impact of stronger tropical cyclones that can destroy years of positive development in a matter of hours, as has been demonstrated time and time again, including by the recent experiences of Cook Islands (2005); Cuba (2008); Fiji (2008); Grenada (2004); Haiti (2004; 2008); Niue (2004); and others.
AOSIS Reaffirms Climate Platform at UNGA
AOSIS Ministers met here today on the sidelines of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss key issues related to the highly anticipated climate change negotiations that begin in Paris at the end of the year.
“The meeting here in New York is the last opportunity for leaders to look each other in the eye and commit to doing what is necessary in Paris,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of Environment and Energy for the Maldives and Chair of AOSIS.
Small island states told to target research not resorts
(SciDevNet) Poorer island nations must up their science and innovation activities to protect their economic growth and move away from tourism as their main source of income, according to development experts.
A book released in advance of the UN summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this month argues that far too many small island developing states are focusing their economies on areas that will prove unprofitable in the long term, as industries such as tourism are prone to natural disasters and changes in trends. Its author is Carlisle Richardson, is an economics affairs officer at the UN.
Richardson, who grew up on St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, says more home-grown research and technological innovation can give poorer island nations a competitive advantage while also preparing them for challenges brought about by things such as climate change, demographic change and industrialisation,
Ronald Jean Jumeau, ambassador to the UN for climate change and small island developing states issues for the Seychelles, says there is a global dearth of science and technology development catering to the needs of islands. Small island developing states ‘lack research support’
Small Island, Big Business: Nauru’s Choice on Migrants
Is replacing phosphate with refugees the best solution for Nauru?
Nauru is currently treating migrants as a disposable commodity; it would do well to remember its own painful experiences from its overreliance on phosphate production
Nauru doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to good governance and investments. After independence in 1968, Nauru experienced several decades of prosperity when exports of the island’s main natural resource, phosphate, made its inhabitants among the wealthiest in the world. This allowed the Nauruan government to abolish taxes and give its population monthly stipends, essentially removing any incentive for Nauruans to seek employment, start businesses, or otherwise contribute to the economy of the country. By the late 1990s, the island’s phosphate reserves had essentially run out, sinking the country into economic turmoil. In the process, 80 percent of the country has been rendered totally uninhabitable and inarable by mining, removing any prospects of agriculture and, to a large degree, tourism.
Cleo Paskal: Act East, engage Pacific Island Countries
While India is playing catch-up in the South China Sea, China is locking up influence in the vast area between Asia and South America.
(Sunday Guardian) Covering almost 1/6th of the planet’s surface, the countries of the Pacific aren’t small island states as much as large ocean territories, with vast exclusive economic zones, increasing strategic importance, major untapped resources and 14 critical votes in international fora.
The PICs’ value as partners is an open secret. For decades, both Australia and New Zealand have justified their position on the world stage by claiming they can “deliver” the PICs. However many of the PICs are becoming disenchanted with those “traditional partnerships”. … In spite of almost all the PICs being stable, democratic, well educated (many with close to 100% literacy), and English speaking — all things that should have been a natural bond between India and the region — India has been very slow off the mark.
Security Challenges for Small Island Developing States
In July, the Council will hold an open debate on the peace and security challenges facing small island developing states (SIDS). New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, is expected to preside. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the prime ministers of Samoa and Jamaica and the finance minister of the Seychelles are likely to brief the Council. No outcome is expected following the debate.
This will be the first open debate addressing the specific challenges associated with this group of 52 countries and territories. As highlighted by the concept note circulated by New Zealand ahead of the open debate, the vulnerabilities of SIDS “are exacerbated by small size; remoteness; narrow resource, economic and export base; and exposure to global environmental challenges”.
The open debate comes after the third UN conference on SIDS in October 2014 in Samoa. The outcome document outlined a series of threats affecting peace and security and the challenges these countries face to respond to them effectively. Some of the threats expected to be raised by member states are related to transnational crime and piracy, the illicit exploitation of natural resources, climate change and uneven development.
Palau is burning boats to deter illegal poaching of marine life
The president of Palau said: ‘We will not tolerate any more these pirates who come and steal our resources’
The pacific nation of Palau has burnt four Vietnamese boats illegally fishing in the waters of the island nation in a stern message against activities of this kind.
Palau’s president, Tommy Remengesau Jr., said: “We wanted to send a very strong message. We will not tolerate any more these pirates who come and steal our resources.”
President Remengesau Jr also said he hopes to turn most of Palau’s territorial waters into a national marine sanctuary, banning commercial fishing and exports apart from limited areas to be used by domestic fishermen and tourists.
Amal Clooney: Release Mohamed Nasheed – an innocent man and the Maldives’ great hope
Not only is the former president’s conviction a ‘travesty of justice’ according to Amnesty, it is a frighteningly authoritarian move
(The Guardian) It may be famous for the pristine holiday beaches of its Indian Ocean coastline but the Maldives has taken a dark authoritarian turn. In 2008, the island nation became a democracy after Mohamed Nasheed was sworn in as president after the country’s first-ever free and fair elections. A charismatic leader, Nasheed introduced liberalising reforms at home, while calling for global action against climate change in an attempt to combat the rising sea levels that threaten to inundate the low-lying nation. His remarkable story is chronicled in the acclaimed documentary The Island President.
Seven years later, however, Nasheed is in prison, having been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for the crime of “terrorism” following a politically motivated show trial. …
Nasheed’s conviction for “terrorism” and the crushing 13-year sentence are a mockery of justice, designed to punish him for criticising the government and remove him as a political threat. Only a few weeks later the parliament controlled by the ruling party adopted a new law making it illegal for anyone imprisoned in the Maldives to be a member of any political party. Nasheed’s conviction sends a loud and clear message to the Maldivian people: opposition to the ruling regime will not be tolerated.