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US warns Pacific about Chinese ‘coercion’

Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken - “Economic coercion across the region is on the rise”

| The Guardian | Edited extracts

Link here to the full article

SYDNEY - The US secretary of state Antony Blinken 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.

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.

The address was part of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, and was attended by leaders or delegates from 11 countries or territories, but representatives from a significant number of countries, including Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Samoa did not attend.

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’s 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,” he said.

“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.

“And every country, no matter its size, should always be able to make choices without fear of retribution.”

China has deepened its connections with governments across the Pacific in the last few decades, amid a soft power push that sees it rivalling the influence of Australia.

China has engaged in significant lending to Pacific countries, as well as paying for massive infrastructure projects.

A report in 2018 found that PNG, the largest country in the Pacific Islands with a population of roughly nine million, had been accepting unaffordable Chinese loans.

In 2019, PNG asked China to refinance its entire government debt, a request that marked a “significant shift” in regional politics, according to Pacific analysts.

In his address, Blinken also affirmed the United States’ commitment to taking action on the climate crisis, which he said posed a “threat that is existential for the islands”.

 “Countries must make and beat ambitious commitments. The US is leading by example on this front. Biden has set out targets to reduce emissions by at least half by 2030,” he said.

Dr Wesley Morgan, research fellow at Griffith Asia Institute, said it was “entirely possible” that Blinken had Canberra in mind when he made these comments.

“They are also taking a swipe at Australia and want to see action on climate,” he said.

“The Pacific has for decades now wanted Australia to take strong action on climate change and now they see an ally in the White House and they also see an ally in Downing Street.

“The Pacific used to be seen as ‘out there’ in calling for an end to coal, but now it’s Australia that is a long way out there … the Pacific has all these global allies now and Australia is very isolated on climate.”


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Arthur Williams

Blinken - A hawk of hawks. I am worried by this man's world view. In his roles at the heart of government and in his commercial life he appears to be in hock to the defence industry and so showed lack of perspicacity by supporting the USA when it invaded Iraq with the still unfolding tragedy of that folly based on false intelligence.

Unashamed, he then supported the not so wise move of arming the hodge-botch of Syrian rebels that has prolonged the civil war which the citizens of that benighted nation have to still endure.

He even thought the invasion of Libya was in America's interest but it too achieved nothing and has resulted in a bloody civil war that still is destabilising the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Strangely he claimed to be a supporter of Turkey which has and still is attempting to see the nation's return to be the powerhouse of a pseudo-Ottoman empire and is currently involved in Libya.

Blinken in an advisory role has been able to help craft the doomed to fail USA led invasion of Afghanistan that has cost over a trillion dollars and saw 2300 US soldiers die with 21000 injured but the real burden was the Afghani people with UNO claiming 111000 have died since 2001. To that you can add the dead 45000 local security personnel.

Yet today as the yanks slowly withdraw their small remnant military after the blood-fest and billions of dollars they leave the Afghan Taliban controlling well over 50% of the unhappy warring nation.

With a social studies degree at Harvard one would think he could have researched something of the nations ethos of surviving many centuries as one of the few unconquered nations in history.

The final irony of this hawk for me is that knowing the unpunished involvement of bosom friendly Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 massacre in New York he still remains an avid supporter of supplying billions in military hardware to that same rogue nation, which allows it to wage war on Yemen.

Perhaps he is just doing Biden's bidding but I think it would be blinking good if Blinken was ignored by PNG, Australia and the other Pacific island leaders.

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