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The United States has officially acknowledged the sovereignty and independence of the Cook Islands and Niue. Joe Biden, the American president, has pledged to establish diplomatic relations with these nations as part of the efforts to strengthen ties with Pacific Island nations and counter the increasing influence of China.
In a statement issued on Monday, President Biden acknowledged the intertwined history and future of the Pacific Islands and the United States, stating that the recognition of the Cook Islands and Niue and the establishment of diplomatic relations would not only enhance the bond between the nations but also contribute to a more secure, prosperous, and free future for their respective populations and people worldwide.
President Biden hosted two days of discussions with leaders of Pacific Island nations in Washington, DC. The US-Pacific Island Forum Summit’s main focus revolved around addressing the challenges posed by the climate crisis, promoting economic growth, sustainable development, and public health.
During a news conference at the onset of the White House discussions on Monday, President Biden expressed his commitment to addressing the concerns raised by Pacific Island nations regarding rising sea levels and climate-induced threats. He reassured them that the United States firmly supports their statehood and UN membership amid climate challenges.
These talks took place amid intensifying competition between the United States and China, as their relations have become strained in recent years due to various issues, including trade, Taiwan’s status, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and US efforts to counter China’s growing economic and military influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Pacific Island summit was the second of its kind, with the United States looking to engage these regions in economic activities while also providing security assurances. The participating nations in the forum included Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Pacific Island leaders have criticized wealthy countries for not taking sufficient action to combat climate change, while bearing much responsibility for it. They have also raised concerns about profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations for climate mitigation. At last year’s summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific strategy, outlining plans to assist the region’s leaders in addressing critical issues such as climate change, maritime security, and overfishing. The administration pledged to provide $810 million in new aid to Pacific Island nations over the next decade, including $130 million allocated for climate change mitigation efforts.
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