Cook Island’s PM sees Biden’s charm offensive as an opportunity

United States President Joe Biden has met Pacific island leaders for a second White House summit in just over a year, part of a charm offensive aimed at curbing inroads by China into a region Washington considers strategically crucial.

Before welcoming the island leaders, gathered under the umbrella of the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on Monday, Biden announced US diplomatic recognition of two more Pacific islands nations, the Cook Islands and Niue.

“The United States is committed to ensuring an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous, and secure. We’re committed to working with all the nations around this table to achieve that goal,” Biden said at the welcoming ceremony.

He pledged to work with Congress to provide $US200 million ($NZ335 million) more in funding for projects in the region aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, spurring economic growth, countering illegal fishing and improving public health, according to a document issued after a working lunch with the group.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, the island forum’s chair, called the summit “an opportunity … to develop our partnerships for prosperity.”

He urged Washington “to actively engage at the highest level” in the 52nd PIF leaders meeting he would host in a few weeks to endorse its 2050 Strategy. Continue reading

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