Geopolitical expert Geoffrey Miller has warned Cook Islands will need to be wary of the potential to be ‘star-struck’ by the attention being bestowed upon it by the world’s superpowers.
Miller made the comment as Prime Minister Mark Brown met with United States President Joe Biden in Washington this week and confirmed closer ties between the nations through formal diplomatic relations.
“The decision by the U.S to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands represents the culmination of a well-signalled manoeuvre by Washington in its ongoing geopolitical competition with China,” said Miller, an international analyst at the Democracy Project at Victoria University in Wellington.
“However, as a relative newcomer to the diplomatic game, the Cook Islands will need to be wary of the potential to be star-struck by the attention currently being bestowed upon it by the world’s superpowers.
“In this context, it will be important to ensure that the genuine interests and needs of the Cook Islands always remain the focus, rather than any desire or temptation to use the Cook Islands as a mere geopolitical pawn in a much bigger contest.”
United States President Joe Biden met Pacific Island leaders for a second White House summit in just over a year early this week, part of a charm offensive aimed at curbing inroads by China into a region Washington considers strategically crucial.
Before welcoming the island leaders, gathered under the umbrella of the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on Monday, Biden announced U.S diplomatic recognition of two more Pacific Islands nations, the Cook Islands and Niue.
Miller said the move will give the Cook Islands a well-deserved seat at America’s diplomatic table.
“And pictures of Mark Brown standing alongside U.S President Joe Biden this week show just how important the voice of the Cook Islands now is to Washington.”
PM Brown earlier said Cook Islands’ journey to statehood – “a journey characterised by resilience and determination” – has brought the country to this pivotal moment.
Looking ahead, the Cook Islands envisioned a future of genuine cooperation and friendship with the United States, he added.
“From the moment we first asserted our self-governance, we have consistently demonstrated our ability to manage our affairs with wisdom and grace,” Brown said.
“For the Cook Islands, this day has been a long time coming and as we celebrate this milestone, we do so with a deep sense of pride in our national identity.
“What a privilege and honour it is to be standing here to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two nations. This momentous occasion represents a culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and the unwavering commitment of our people to forge our own sovereign path on the global stage.”
Meanwhile Biden also pledged to work with Congress to provide US$200 million ($NZ335 million) more in funding for projects in the region aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, spurring economic growth, countering illegal fishing and improving public health, according to a document issued after a working lunch with the group.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS