Palau invites U.S. military to build on remote islands
May 05, 2021 2 mins, 33 secs

BANGKOK — American troop deployments can spark tensions and resistance in other parts of the world, but the tiny nation of Palau has invited the U.S.

military to build ports, bases and airfields on its Pacific islands in the face of rising Chinese economic intimidation, according to defiant President Surangel Whipps.

bases are unusually blunt for a Pacific leader,” Australia Pacific Security College Director Meg Keen said in an interview.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week that it is getting “harder to reconcile” China’s desire for a greater role in world affairs with its repressive policies at home.

Island nations such as Palau, paradoxically, are more valuable because of their isolation, which gives them undisputed claim to large swaths of the ocean waters surrounding them.

“Pacific nations may have small populations and land mass but should be seen as ‘large ocean states’ intimately connected to other island nations of the ‘blue continent,’” she said.

“China is wanting to bring as many Pacific nations into their Belt and Road network as possible so it has access across the Pacific to the Americas and Antarctica.”.

Pacific island nations could be exploited by either side if hostile military action erupts between Beijing and Washington, analysts said.

The number of Chinese tourists peaked in 2015 at 87,000, about half of all tourist arrivals, according to Palau’s Bureau of Immigration and the South Pacific Tourism Organization.

Despite the wooing, Palau would not cancel its 1999 diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, a key prize in China’s global diplomatic quest.

Whipps said in an interview with Agence France-Presse last month.

Among 15 other countries that have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the only other Pacific islands are the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu.

The U.S.-Chinese rivalry in the region is so fierce that Palau found itself hosting U.S.

Esper said the visit in part was to express thanks to the hundreds of Palau citizens who, under a 1994 agreement, were serving in the U.S.

“We are grateful to the people of Palau for their enduring contributions to the United States armed forces, and we honor those who laid down their lives in defense of both of our nations,” said Mr.

Washington administered several Pacific islands, including Palau, until they achieved independence

“China is disadvantaged by America’s 70-year head start in the Pacific since the end of World War II and by Palau’s staunch support for the U.S., Taiwan and democratic Western allies,” a Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst with experience in the Pacific region said in an interview

That “first chain” in the Pacific includes Taiwan, Okinawa, the Philippines and other islands closest to China on the front line of the struggle for influence in the highly trafficked and highly contested South China and East China Seas, where Beijing and Washington compete to dominate with their strategy and policies

It links southern Japan, Guam and islands farther south across the Western Pacific Ocean

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