US, UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand form Pacific group to counter China
The US, the UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have launched an informal group aimed at expanding economic and diplomatic ties with tiny Pacific island nations in a move to challenge China’s regional influence.
The US-led group, dubbed Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP), will seek to support “Pacific regionalism” and enhance economic ties between the Pacific islands and the rest of the world, the White House said in a Friday statement.
"We are united in our shared determination to support a region that benefits the peoples of the Pacific. We are also united in how we realize this vision -- according to principles of Pacific regionalism, sovereignty, transparency, accountability, and most of all, led and guided by the Pacific Islands," claimed the statement.
The statement came a day after White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell announced that he expected more senior US officials to visit Pacific island nation as Washington continues its push to counter China’s rising influence throughout the strategically important region near its territorial waters.
Campbell further claimed that Washington needed more diplomatic facilities across the region, and more contact with Pacific island countries that at times "receive lesser attention."
The development comes as the Biden administration has vowed to commit more resources to the Indo-Pacific in the face of Beijing’s growing economic, military and security ties with island nations in the region vying for foreign investments.
The statement appeared to defy a strong demand by China’s foreign ministry a day earlier for the US-led NATO military alliance to avoid attempts to start a new Cold War by its attempts to expand in the Asian-Pacific region, describing the move as dangerous.
Speaking at a Thursday press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed the NATO leaders for their provocative remarks on the issue and referred to the Western alliance was a product of the Cold War.
"We are calling on NATO to end drawing ideological lines, spreading false reports or making provocative statements about China, and to stop attempts to unleash a new cold war," Wang told reporters.