In the last eight weeks, the Pacific has been a hive of superpower activity.
China’s recent play for influence and power in the region has resulted in the United States upping its engagement.
Mark Lambert, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S State Department, said his nation was trying the Pacific way of sitting down to talk, and doing it in a humble manner.
“Let’s face it, I’m proud of being an American, but we are not always humble when we do these things,” he told 1News.
While China has been speaking with Pacific leaders regularly, there are suggestions western nations haven’t been paying as much attention as they should – something Lambert acknowledged was felt in his country as well.
“We should have been having these conversations more regularly and we are doing some soul searching about that.”
He says the region can expect a more engaged America, which intends to devise joint strategies for issues such as fisheries exploitation.
“The United States needs to do more and the United States recognises the utility of working with our closest partners, including New Zealand.”
China’s security deal with Solomons Islands has upped the anti, and Lambert says Beijing’s lack of transparency and the speed surrounding the deal, along with other agreements, is concerning.
“The memorandum of understanding that they have entered into with a number of countries have secrecy clauses which say ‘if you sign this agreement with us, you can’t share a draft of it with your neighbouring country’.
“These type of things is not in keeping with the rules of the road that the international community has created over the last few decades.2
A potential flashpoint is Kanton Island in Kiribati, which is strategically critical for the U.S because of its proximity to Hawaii and other American military installations.
China is partnering with Kiribati for development there, including upgrading the runway.
“This is something that not just the United States but other key countries in the Pacific need to be watching very closely. Again we have a long history of security issues being addressed in the pacific collectively and transparently and I think that’s what we need to be doing across the board.”
The U.S hopes expanding its relationship with the Pacific will help tip the scales in its favour.