Page Nav


Gradient Skin



Responsive Ad

As US fears over China's Pacific expansion intensify, Biden's envoy will visit the Marshall Islands

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - The president's special envoy for discussions with three small but strategically vital Pacific island...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - The president's special envoy for discussions with three small but strategically vital Pacific island states, Joe Biden, will lead a mission to the Marshall Islands next week, amid growing US concerns about China's efforts to expand its influence in the region.

According to Reuters, Joseph Yun, an experienced diplomat chosen by Biden in March, would be in the Marshall Islands from June 14 to 16.

Yun will hold talks on the Compact of Free Association (COFA), which controls US economic support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and is set to expire next year, according to a State Department official.

Similar agreements with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau, which are set to expire in 2023 and 2024, respectively, are also being negotiated by Yun.

The State Department spokeswoman said, "We welcome the opportunity for in-person meetings with the RMI negotiation team and look forward to fruitful talks."

The Pacific islands have emerged as a significant front in Washington's strategic competition with China, which has increased diplomatic efforts in the region to recruit governments.

Last week, Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed similar concerns about China's bid to increase its influence in the Pacific, according to a senior US source. They also emphasized the importance of in-person interaction with Pacific island leaders, according to the official.

They were particularly concerned about a recent security deal signed by China and the Solomon Islands. 

A virtual meeting of ten Pacific foreign ministers in Fiji, sponsored by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, agreed last week to postpone consideration of a Chinese proposal for a broad trade and security deal.

Following that, Samoa's leader stated that the accord should be addressed at a regional summit before any decisions are made.

Negotiations to renew the United States' COFA agreements with the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau began during the Trump administration but stalled before Yun's appointment, sparking fears that Washington might lose its influence fight with Beijing.

Reimbursement for the legacy of extensive US nuclear testing, the presence of US military bases, and climate change mitigation are all important challenges for the Marshall Islands.

The meetings, according to a person familiar with the planning, will take place at the US Army Garrison – Kwajalein Atoll, which is home to a critical US missile testing facility, and are an indication that Yun's appointment has given the Biden administration's engagement with Pacific Island governments a boost.

According to the source, Yun has already met or had virtual discussions with the leaders of the three nations, as well as held virtual talks with the FSM negotiating team, but the Marshall Islands trip would be the first in-person negotiations since they were mostly frozen in December 2020.

According to the source, Wang's recent visit to the region has instilled in US authorities a sense of urgency.

"I believe it drew a lot more attention from folks who weren't previously involved," the source said, adding that Pentagon officials were becoming more interested in the COFA process.

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, with the health and environmental consequences still being felt by islanders.

The "Castle Bravo" test at Bikini Atoll in 1954 was the largest US bomb ever detonated, 1,000 times more powerful than the one that exploded over Hiroshima in 1945.

Reponsive Ads