WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) countries on Thursday (Sep 22) with the aim of better coordinating assistance to the region in the face of competition from China, a White House official said.
The group was formed in June and includes the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. India has an observer status with the PBP, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said in remarks at an event in New York. A few other countries would join too, he said.
Campbell said circumstances for the Pacific islands countries were “much more dire” than in the past.
“Their livelihoods are threatened,” he said, pointing to the “existential” threat they face from climate change and the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism revenue and business.
“Much of the assistance in the Pacific is not as well coordinated as it could be. We have not learned as much about best practices. We’re going to seek to do that as we go forward, building on the existing institutions and engagements of the Pacific.”
Some different countries would be doing more in the Pacific diplomatically “in terms of business prospects and aid and assistance”, Campbell added.
He said there was an “undeniable strategic component” to the stepped-up engagement.
“We’ve seen in the last several years a more ambitious China that seeks to develop footprints militarily and the like in the Indo Pacific … that has caused some anxiety with partners like Australia and New Zealand, even countries in the region as a whole.”