North America The US-China rivalry in South Pacific just got more...

The US-China rivalry in South Pacific just got more heated


Certain anti-China strategists, who are called “hard realists” in the U.S., argue that Washington must focus its resources on China, not Europe.

According to these strategists, who find the Biden Administration’s aid to Ukraine excessive, the interest of the U.S. in Europe is of secondary importance compared to that in Asia. Strategists point out that the biggest threat to U.S. interests comes from China and claim that focusing on Ukraine is a mere “distraction.” While these discussions are taking place in the U.S., “alignment” moves are in full swing in the Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific region has become the epicenter of the “Great Power Rivalry” between the U.S. and China. In the South Pacific, there is a struggle for control over hundreds of islands and thousands of islets. I have already mentioned that China’s attempt to conclude a multilateral agreement with 10 island countries in the South Pacific has failed. China’s agreement with the Solomon Islands spooked the U.S., as well as its partners in the region, namely Australia.

The United States had effectively placed Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau under a “special” treaty called the “The Compact of Free Association (COFA)”. The agreement allows the United States to establish military bases and use armed forces in the “COFA area.” The deal expires in 2023 for the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. The U.S., which wants to restrict China’s access to the South Pacific, wants to renew the agreement. In late March, U.S. President Biden appointed Joseph Yun as “Special Representative” to lead the negotiations with these three Islands within the scope of COFA.

Ambassador Yun, who previously served as U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea, paid a visit to the Marshall Islands last week. As a result of the negotiations, the parties agreed to renew the agreement. The negotiations, whose second phase will take place in Washington in late July, are expected to be completed in the autumn.

Rose Gottemoeller, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and former Deputy Secretary General of NATO emphasized that the rivalry with China made the three candidates more important than ever, in a May 25 article she penned for

According to Gottemoeller, these three islands give the United States control over an area the size of the Americas, stretching from Hawaii to the Philippines. Gottemoeller also pointed out that the Marshall Islands boasts a very convenient range for intercontinental ballistic missile tests and space operations.

From the 16th century until the end of the 19th century, these islands were Spanish colonies. Invaded by Japan at the beginning of the First World War, the Islands passed into the hands of the U.S. in the Second World War. After the war, the Islands were placed under U.S. tutelage under UN supervision. Although the islands later gained their independence, the U.S. tutelage continued. In fact, the “COFA Agreement” is just to camouflage the U.S.’s continued tutelage over these three islands.

From 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear bombs on the Marshall Islands. The nuclear bomb the U.S. tested in 1954 was 1,000 times more destructive than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

This test was performed even though it was considered risky. Nuclear fallout spread widely in the Pacific under the influence of currents and winds. The 1954 ordeal was the worst radioactive disaster in U.S. history. These tests had dire consequences on the lives of the Islanders. Cancer cases resulting from nuclear tests were much higher than the estimated numbers. It should also be noted that the islands are used as “nuclear waste dumps.”

The United States is responsible for the defense and security of the Marshall Islands, according to COFA. It is stated that the U.S. seizes about 40 percent of the Islands’ budget. Islanders, on the other hand, think that the economic terms of the agreement have somehow been overlooked by the United States. The rivalry with China now gives these islands leverage in negotiations with the United States. The islanders want environmental, health, and climate change issues to be added to the agreement before it is renewed.

Due to their strategic location, the islands are an obstacle to China’s expansion in the South Pacific. According to American strategists, without these islands, the wall that the U.S. is trying to build against China in the South Pacific would be weakened. So what is so important for the U.S. is just as important for China.

Abdullah Muradoğlu
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