DC Forum for Pacific Island leaders


Later this month, Pacific Island nation leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu will be congregating in Washington, D.C. for the first ever Pacific Islands Nations Summit sponsored by the Biden administration. The Cook Islands, Niue, New Caledonia and French Polynesia will not be participating in the event. 

The purpose of the summit will be to convene Pacific Island nation leaders and the Biden administration to discuss COVID-19 responses, increasing American military presence, climate change and environmental protection, as well as workforce development topics. Pacific Island leaders hope to convey to the Biden administration the region’s key needs, as opposed to what the U.S. government views as key. 

The incentive for both the Biden administration and Pacific Island leaders to find compromise is high as China continues to make inroads and further establish itself throughout the northern, southern, and western Pacific ocean regions using political and economic warfare tools against the United States vis-a-vis the Maritime Belt and Road Initiative. The strategic intent of the summit is to enable Pacific Island leaders to have discussions that are designed to look out three decades into the future, enabling real change to be initiated moving forward.

Knock, knock
This summit is taking place at the doorstep of the next American election cycle. The summit is taking place as the Compacts of Free Association are set to expire. This summit is taking place as the United States opens up embassies in Tonga, the Solomon Islands, and Kiribati. This summit is taking place as China is making agreements with the Solomon Islands to have access to its port facilities, which is something that irks both the United States and Australia. This summit is taking place on the eve of Xi Jinping being re-elected to a third term.

Our Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent is becoming more and more strategically important for key industrial nation states such as China and America. The United States has not placed as much emphasis or resources over the past three decades to fully satisfy and resolve a host of concerns that have their beginnings during the Cold War or/and World War II.  

There are still many political and human affairs topics found throughout our Deep Blue continent that remain unresolved with the United States that should or will be brought up with the Biden administration at the summit. If America does too little, these festering problems will continue to widen America’s credibility gap seen throughout Micronesia and Oceana. The U.S. Department of State is keenly aware of this predicament.

China sees how to exploit the political and diplomatic fissures between the United States and various Pacific Island nations that have remained unresolved. If not properly remediated, the United States will experience long-term risks that China will continue to gain advantage throughout our Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent.

China continues to deploy more money, resources, and influence
When it comes to financial resource giving in the Pacific Basin, it appears that China, not the United States, is leading the way. This is important to consider since China alone has delivered economic aid to Pacific Basin nations at over twice the level (approximately $5 billion) of combined aid compared to what Australia, the U.S., Japan, and Britain have spent collectively. 

Unlike the West, China strategizes from the perspective of what the world will look like 100 years from today, similar in some ways to what the Chinese did with the British on Hong Kong. 

Remember that China is also currently soliciting how it can more effectively work with a variety of Central Asian nations that hold vast amounts of natural resources. China is pursuing additional inroads to further enhance its relationship with Russia such as purchasing immense amounts of petroleum resources that are currently sanctioned by the west. China also controls rare earth materials needed by the Pentagon for missiles and other high-end weaponry.

Several possibilities are presented now for our Chamorro people of the Mariana Islands
Neither Guam nor the Northern Mariana Islands have ever had a Marianas Islands summit sponsored by and directly involving the White House, the U.S. Congress, and the executive line agency community of the United States federal government. 

Now is an opportune time to have the next congressman or congresswoman from Guam and the congressman from the Northern Marianas Islands put forth a proposal to hold a formal summit sometime next year. Both the Guam and Northern Marianas congressional representatives will also have the opportunity to pursue leadership positions in the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus. 

Guam and the Northern Marianas will not be formally attending the upcoming Pacific Island nation summit with the Biden administration because our ancient homes are American colonial outposts. Despite this gap, it is in the Biden administration’s interest to fully receive a list of key environmental, political, Chamorro cultural, and economic concerns from the next congressional representatives to be elected this fall, with support from the Guam and Northern Mariana Islands governors.  

Both the Chamorro people of the Mariana Islands and the United States government have the common incentive to negotiate and resolve longstanding problems because this will lead to a truer and stronger homeland and national security environment. 

No longer can we sustain blind acceptance of a geostrategic and geopolitical framework that was laid down prior to the Cold War era. The Cold War era is long over and China has been and continues to knock on Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent doors.

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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