Jakarta, IO – US President Joe Biden stated that his country officially recognized two Pacific countries, Cook Islands and Niue, on Monday (25/9) local time. This recognition was given in a bid to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
The announcement was made at the start of a summit meeting with the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum hosted by the US. US officials said Biden had announced a more assertive American stance in the region, per Detikcom, Thursday, (28/9).
Biden in his statement said Washington recognized the Cook Islands and Niue as ‘sovereign and independent’ countries, and said he would establish diplomatic relations with the two countries.
This step, Biden said, would help maintain a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific region’. In his statement, Biden also said that an agreement to recognize the two countries would help curb illegal fishing, address climate change in vulnerable regions and promote economic growth.
The Cook Islands and Niue are known to have populations of less than 20,000 people, but are a large economic zone in the South Pacific region. Both countries are self-governing and are in ‘free association’ with New Zealand, meaning that both countries’ foreign and defense policies are to varying degrees linked to Wellington.
After decades of being treated as a relatively remote region, the South Pacific has become an important arena of competition between the US and an increasingly assertive China.
Beijing itself has dramatically increased its economic, political and military influence in strategic maritime areas. (rr)