WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden‘s special envoy for talks with three tiny but strategically important Pacific island nations will lead a delegation to the Marshall Islands next week amid growing US worries about China’s efforts to expand its influence in the region.
Joseph Yun, a veteran diplomat appointed by Biden in March, told Reuters he and his team would be in the Marshall Islands from June 14-16.
A spokesperson for the US State Department said Yun would hold talks on the Compact of Free Association (COFA) that governs US economic assistance for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), which is due to expire next year.
The United States has similar agreements with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau, which expire in 2023 and 2024, respectively, and Yun is also responsible for those negotiations.
“We welcome the opportunity for in-person meetings with the RMI negotiating team and look forward to productive talks,” the State Department spokesperson said.
The Pacific islands have emerged as a key front in Washington’s strategic competition with China, which has stepped up diplomatic efforts to woo countries in the region.
Mr. Biden and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern aired shared concerns last week about China’s bid to expand its influence in the Pacific and a senior US official said they discussed the need for in-person engagement with Pacific island leaders. Read full story
They also expressed concern about a recent security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands. [nL3N2XJ0FO]
Last week, a virtual meeting of 10 Pacific foreign ministers hosted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Fiji agreed to defer consideration of a Chinese proposal for a sweeping trade and security pact.
Samoa’s leader said subsequently the pact needed to be discussed at a regional meeting before any decisions are made. Read full story
Talks to renew the US COFA agreements with the Marshall Islands,…
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