US says committed to Pacific Islands that rejected ‘opaque’ China pact

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The United States promised Tuesday to support Pacific nations after they rejected a pact with China, saying Beijing’s own actions showed how “opaque” its offers were.

In a major diplomatic setback for Beijing, 10 Pacific island states on Monday rebuffed a proposal that would have pulled them into China’s orbit.

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State Department Spokesman Ned Price reiterated that the United States, like Australia, had made clear its concerns that China had offered a “shadowy” deal with regional consultations.

In keeping with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tone on the US rivalry with China, Price did not gloat and said the Pacific islands made their “own sovereign decisions.”

“We are committed to continue deepening our relationship with our Pacific Island partners and in the Indo-Pacific, including working together to deliver for our people,” Price told reporters.

Price highlighted concerns raised by journalists in Fiji, Samoa and the Solomon Islands who covered the visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi including a refusal to permit questions.

“When we talk about these opaque, shadowy deals, I think you need only look at... the PRC’s efforts to obscure these very deals,” Price said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing attempted to “even go so far as to prevent officials in the region from facing reporters in their own countr(ies),” he said.

China had proposed a pact that would include expanded training of Pacific islands’ police, conducting sensitive marine mapping and gaining greater access to natural resources.

In return, Beijing would offer millions of dollars in financial assistance and the prospect of a free trade agreement to China’s market, the world’s largest at 1.4 billion people.

In a recent letter to fellow leaders, David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, warned the offer was “disingenuous” and would “ensure Chinese influence in government” and “economic control” of key industries.

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