The United States has been ramping up its military activities in Palau in recent months amid rising tensions with China, according to Palau’s top diplomat, who is visiting the United States ahead of the first US-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington next week. are.
Palau’s Minister of State Gustav Aitaro urged countries to find alternative Pacific shipping routes in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that would make the Taiwan Strait an unsafe international shipping lane.
“Recently, we’ve had a lot of visits from the US military to Palau: building radar systems in Palau, building airports, which we don’t mean to provide [with] Safety is guaranteed, but at least it is a preventive measure,” Ataro said on Monday during an event organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Aitaro said “if the conflict [in the Taiwan Strait] arises, the next alternative route is from Palau to Japan,” and this is why it is important to sit down and discuss possible scenarios for Palau, Japan and the United States.
“Deal with it before it happens. Let’s not wait until it’s too late,” Aitaro said.
Palau is one of the few countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Ataro’s remarks came after US President Joe Biden said the US would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese aggression.
In an interview on Sunday with the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” Biden said for the fourth time since taking office in 2021 that the United States would respond militarily to a Chinese attempt to annex Taiwan by force.
Biden’s Taiwan comments raise questions about US stance
Peace, stability in the Taiwan Straits
“The president’s remarks speak for themselves. I think our policy has been consistent and remains unchanged and will continue to be,” said Kurt Campbell, the White House’s National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific.
Campbell said during the same, “Our primary goal is to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, to secure and stabilize the status quo, to ensure that there is a healthy dialogue and discussion, to try to avoid unintentional escalating situations.” The incident happened in New York on Monday.
The Taiwan Strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes and the primary route for ships traveling from China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to Europe, the United States, and markets all along the way. This year 88% of the largest container ships passed through it.
The Republic of Palau is located close to the US territories of Guam and is one of the Freely Associated States (FAS) closest to the South China Sea. FAS refers to Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia that signed treaties with the United States.
Under soon-to-expire treaties known as the Compacts of Free Association, the three Pacific island nations receive grant aid and security guarantees from the US government. FAS citizens can live and work in the US without a visa.
In return, the United States has the right to build military bases in these three island nations and can deny outsiders access to those countries’ waters, airspace, and land.
A State Department internal document from April Supporting US military efforts, “particularly plans to base critical radar sites in the country, as well as the increased pace of US military training and exercises,” are among the top priorities of the US embassy in Palau.
US-Pacific Island Country Summit
Next week, the White House will host its first US-Pacific Island Country Summit. Scheduled from September 28 to 29, officials said the two-day, in-person summit reflects the United States’ enduring partnership with Pacific island nations on key issues including maritime security, climate change and a free and open Indo-Pacific. includes moving forward.
Biden will host a dinner with leaders of Pacific island nations at the White House. US climate envoy John Kerry will host a session on climate change at the State Department.
Other meetings include sessions at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, USAID, the Pentagon, the Department of the Interior, Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, where new initiatives will be announced.
Senior US officials warned about Chinese ambitions to seek military footprints in the Indo-Pacific, while acknowledging that next week’s summit will address Washington’s lack of a strategic approach to the Pacific island nations. is part of the plan.
After decades of relative inattention on the part of policymakers in Washington and Beijing, the Pacific Island region is emerging as an area of strategic competition with significant implications for US security interests, According to a report by the United States Institute of Peace, Washington (USIP.)
Citing recent developments that have caused US concerns in the region, such as a secret security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, which is seen as likely to lay the foundation for a Chinese military presence, the USIP reports suggested that Washington may begin investing more in its closest partners. Such as FAS to limit China’s influence in the region.