U.S. calls on NATO to deepen ties with Japan, South Korea, urges Pacific island nations to be wary of “economic coercion”

U.S. Secretary of State John Blinken, speaking at a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) foreign ministers, called on NATO to strengthen cooperation with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea to meet the challenges posed by the rise of China and the Russian threat.

The NATO foreign ministers’ meeting was held Tuesday (June 1), with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosting the videoconference.

A press release from the State Department said Blinken also talked about the upcoming NATO summit and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO, stressing that reinvigorating the alliance is a priority goal of the Biden administration. Blinken expressed support for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s efforts to make the 30-member alliance “more resilient and stronger” in dealing with the “systemic challenges” of China and Russia.

Since entering the White House, President Biden has emphasized the need to strengthen U.S. relations with allies. The United States has also called for greater cooperation among allies. In his remarks at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Blinken placed special emphasis on partnerships among allies, including NATO’s cooperation with the European Union. He encouraged NATO to deepen relations with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The first foreign leaders invited to visit the White House since President Biden took office were Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Both Japan and South Korea are critical U.S. allies in East Asia in addressing the Chinese challenge. In addition to its desire to strengthen relations with these two allies, the United States has also been calling for greater cooperation between Japan and South Korea and to resolve the historical problems that have plagued their relationship.

In a video message at another major international conference in Hawaii, Secretary Blinken called on Pacific island leaders to maintain a “rules-based international order” and to be wary of “economic coercion.

The leaders of 11 Pacific island nations or territories or their representatives are meeting in Hawaii, and Blinken’s remarks are seen as an unnamed rebuke of China’s actions in the Pacific islands. Blinken said the U.S. supports Pacific island nations in facing “the challenges we must address together,” including the new crown epidemic and climate change.

Blinken called on Pacific island leaders to be wary of China’s growing influence in the region. Economic coercion is increasing throughout the region,” he said. The United States fully endorses development and investment in Pacific Island countries, but investments must adhere to international standards of environmental and social sustainability, and should be transparent and subject to public consultation.” Blinken emphasized that “every country, large or small, should be able to make its own decisions without fear of retaliation.”

The Guardian quoted Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands Program at the Roe Institute in Australia, as saying that the countries targeted in Blinken’s message were “fairly obvious” and that “only one country that is not part of the traditional club has spent the last few decades in There is only one country that is not part of the traditional club that has been deeply involved in the Pacific islands over the last few decades, and that is China. Plec said, “When he talks about economic coercion, the veil is very thin in terms of who he is referring to.”

China has strengthened its relations with Pacific island nations across the board over the past few decades, and the soft power it exerts has been on par with Australia’s. China has provided massive loans to Pacific island nations while funding vast infrastructure, and a 2018 report showed that Papua New Guinea has received huge loans from China that far exceed its ability to pay, and the largest of the Pacific island nations asked China to restructure its liabilities in 2019. We underestimate the ability of Pacific island countries to make decisions,” Plec said …. They’ve gotten smart in front of China.”

Plec was also critical of the lack of U.S. diplomatic presence in the Pacific island nations. What alternative can you offer when the U.S. warns these countries to be wary and discourage bad influence, he told The Guardian?

The leaders of 11 Pacific island nations and territories or their representatives attended the meeting in Hawaii, but several countries, including Papua New Guinea, did not. When China held a video conference with these countries last week, the vast majority of Pacific island and territorial leaders or their representatives were in attendance.