Beijing courts Micronesia in push for rival base to Guam

China dangles economic assistance to Pacific island nations currently aligned with US

TSUKASA HADANO, Nikkei staff writer DECEMBER 14, 2019 03:53 JST

BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Micronesian counterpart in Beijing on Friday, promising economic assistance for infrastructure construction, part of China's efforts to chip away at traditional U.S. partnerships in the South Pacific.

"China is willing to offer economic and technical assistance to Micronesia within its own capacity," Xi said, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. He added that the countries should work together in trade, investment, agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure construction under Beijing's Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.

Micronesian President David Panuelo also pledged to expand cooperation in these areas.

As Beijing works to undermine the U.S. alliance with the South Pacific island nations of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands, Beijing is aggressively courting strategically located Micronesia.

Officially the Federated States of Micronesia, the Pacific island nation is relatively near the U.S. naval base in Guam, which houses nuclear submarines and strategic bombers. The federation's Yap Islands are about 700 km away from Guam, and the U.S. Navy is active in the area.

Many believe China wants to set up a deployment and refueling hub for its vessels in Micronesia to counter the American military presence in Guam. Even a purely diplomatic overture would exert pressure on the U.S.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the U.S. provides financial assistance to Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands in exchange for them hosting U.S. bases. The three Pacific states may not house military bases of other countries while the agreements are in place.

The current compact between Micronesia and the U.S. lasts until 2023. But it faces heavy opposition on the islands, creating an opening for China to expand its clout.

Meanwhile, Beijing has taken a carrot-and-stick approach with Palau, which has a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan. China essentially banned packaged tours to Palau in 2017. Now, some news outlets report it is offering to shoulder the financial aid Palau currently receives from the U.S. if the island nation scraps its Taiwan ties in favor of the mainland.

China's economic influence is a threat, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine said in Washington in May, according to the Pacific Islands Centre.

But it is unclear how successful China's efforts will be, with Pacific nations appearing to play the two sides against each other in hopes of obtaining the best possible outcome for themselves. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Micronesia in August, where he met with leaders from that country, the Marshall Islands and Palau to affirm their economic and security cooperation.

Heine issued a statement in September doubling down on the Marshall Islands' ties with Taiwan. "We've all seen China's attempts to expand its territory and footprint, and this should be of great concern to democratic countries," she said.

Panuelo met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, a U.S. ally, on Nov. 14. The leaders agreed to work together toward the success of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting to be hosted by Japan in 2021.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/Beijing-courts-Micronesia-in-push-for-rival-base-to-Guam

Comments

  • The COFA is perpetual..so talk of Chinese military presence in FSM is a nonstarter.
  • I hope FSM dose not ended up being the prime ignitor of conflict to war on these small nations. its either china or USA you cant no combine both.. its a bad news..
  • Lets try to get advantages from both sides lol image
  • Loving it.....China stirring the Pacific pot & US getting worried, perhaps paranoid.

    It’s about time the US pays very close attention to the Micronesian needs & concerns & release all the damn frozen FSM infrastructure funds. Just in time for the end of our Compact,

    Saka, you are right that our COFA may be perpetual because as I mentioned years ago, US deliberately manipulated our COFA & intentionally put in a clause in our COFA that made the Defense/Security part perpetual while the Financial/Economic portion have an expiration date. Our COFA can be terminated but it requires an impossible majority or 75% vote of the FSM population as stated in our COFA.

    Why is it impossible? Because almost 30% if not more of FSM citizens are now working, getting healthcare, pursuing education & living in the US & will no doubt object to the termination of our COFA.

    However, we should know or be mindful that there is/are United Nation Resolution (s) that mandate & reaffirm the importance of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination and of speedy granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples for the effective guarantee & observance of human rights.

    I like Bull02’s idea—-get the best from each country, which I think we have already did or been doing it & should perhaps continue to do.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. FSM citizens have been enjoying the benefits of being able to work, live & pursue education in the US.

    Pohnpei & Chuuk both got their State Government office complex/buildings funded & built by the Chinese.

    US couldn’t even complete the Chuuk Weno road project.

    Imagine if the Chinese built roads & connected all the Chuuk lagoon islands without even setting up a military base?

    As long as both countries respect our sovereignty, why not get the best from each?

    But then, with rising tensions between the 2 Superpowers & with Trump as US President, do we really have a say if a war or conflict breaks out?

    Saka, some people believe our COFA is not perpetual because it will come to an end at some point in the future because of the DECLINE of US HEGEMONY & more importantly - WAR.

    The inevitable WAR between the US & CHINA/RUSSIA will not only destroy our islands including your island of Fefan, it will obliterate our COFA treaty.

    So prepare for WAR. Prepare for a new colonial power. Prepare for a new Treaty,....if we survive the NUCLEAR WAR or WORLD WAR III.

    Saka, if we survive World War III, that’s the only time when you will know if our COFA is perpetual.

    Note: These are not facts, only an opinion

  • The USA only sees Micronesia and the Pacific as a military strategic piece on the chessboard, however for China, it is more of an economic development related relationship.

    Instead of a conquest to conquer militarily, the Chinese strategy in the Pacific is not to conquer, but to help the nations develop their economies and infrastructure. This is truly a genuine friend to the Pacific.

  • LOL

    Since the end of WWII through today, the U.S. has funded our elementary and high schools, our college students with Pell Grants, our clinics, hospitals and health care, our airports, and our weather stations, just to mention a few.

    If you were a micronesian, you would know that, coconuts.
  • Good job for FSM. Between two Giants the decision wasn't hard but its the best for FSM. China is our future. Universal healthcare is what we want. And if it's SOCIALISM that support it im all in for it.

    The majority or uneducated majority should listen to the voice of the few. I'm for this. Even if it means taking away religious freedom or free speech right.

    Climate change is a threat to humanity and only China can stop it.
  • China is the future of Micronesia. This is great NEWS. SOCIALISM has arrived in Micronesia. And its glorious.
  • If China is the future of Micronesia, FSM citizens living in the U.S. should start planning to return to their original home islands.
  • edited December 2019
    democracy vs communism > FSM like both but when chain star building infrastructures those belongs to china if FSM can not pay back the loans, unless FSM is capable of paying her loans, china is here to stay along with communism.. is that what FSM want?
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