US Grants Island Status to Counter China.The United States has officially granted ‘independent and sovereign state’ status to the Cook Islands and Niue Island in the Pacific Ocean, a move seen as a strategic effort to exert influence in the region, particularly in response to China’s growing presence. President Joe Biden announced this recognition on Monday, signaling the start of diplomatic relations with these island nations. Biden’s rationale behind this decision is to foster a free and secure Indo-Pacific region.
Biden emphasized that this action aims to address issues such as combatting illegal fishing and mitigating the impacts of climate change, with the ultimate goal of promoting economic development in the area. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and New Zealand’s leader, Dalton Tagellagi, jointly declared these diplomatic relations.
While these islands have had self-governing status, they have traditionally relied on New Zealand for foreign and defense policies. The Pacific Ocean region has been relatively insignificant in global politics for some time, but it has gained newfound importance amid the ongoing competition between the United States and China, given China’s expanding economic, military, and political interests.
US Grants Island Status to Counter China
The timing of Biden’s announcement coincides with the impending Pacific Islands Forum, consisting of 18 member states and central to the United States’ broader strategy to enhance its presence in the Pacific. This forum includes major players like Australia alongside smaller island nations. However, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, is notably absent from this forum due to his country’s close ties with China. At the forum’s opening, Biden expressed the United States’ commitment to ensuring a safe, free, and development-oriented Indo-Pacific region through collaborative efforts.
Biden believes that recognizing the independence of these two island states will facilitate the expansion of U.S. influence in the region. Additionally, he pledged to take actions to address climate change, curb illegal fishing activities, and invest $200 million in public health and economic development initiatives.