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Japan, US to enhance support for island nations
Publication Date : 05-09-2013
Prompted by an increased sense of caution against China expanding its influence in Pacific island states, Japan and the United States have begun increasing their role in supporting island nations.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has been expanding its support for the island nations through such activities as environmental protection and ocean patrols by the US Coast Guard in the Pacific area.
The United States attaches particular importance to protecting a sea-lane that connects Hawaii, where its Pacific Command is headquartered, and Guam, where US military facilities crucial for possible operations in Asia are located.
To prevent a situation in which the sea-lane is threatened by China, strengthening relations with the island nations is indispensable.
Wallace Gregson, former US assistant defence secretary for Asia and the Pacific, told The Yomiuri Shimbun that China’s assistance in redeveloping a port in Tonga will not be an immediate military threat, but it is necessary to take some action.
He said the relationship that Japan and the United States have with the island nations may be weakened if their presence is not felt.
Gregson highlighted that the two nations should jointly provide support to encourage the island nations’ development efforts, instead of independently competing against the level of funding offered by China.
Compared to China, Japan’s official development assistance has not increased recently.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said China is welcomed by the island nations because it provides funds without specifying restrictions on how it is used, while Japan determines the level of funding for each project it supports based on its intended purpose.
Meanwhile, Japan has an advantage over China in that it has hosted summit meetings of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting since 1997 and has established “good relations with all the participating nations”, according to the senior Foreign Ministry official.
Japan and the United States have promoted strengthening their partnership. The United States participated in the previous summit meeting in May 2012 for the first time based on Japan’s recommendation.
When then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the Post-Forum Dialogue of the Pacific Islands Forum in August 2012, she declared the two countries would jointly extend assistance to Pacific island nations in a manner that respects local practices, with disaster management and environmental protection as areas on which to place major emphasis.
Thus, the United States demonstrated a kind of “countermeasure” against China’s style of assistance.
Yamaguchi is a correspondent based in Washington.