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Task force formed to curb China’s growing influence in the Pacific region



Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen of American Samoa speaks during the introduction of the Indo-Pacific Task Force in Washington, D.C. on June 7. Photo courtesy of Rep. Radewagen's office

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday officially launched the Indo-Pacific Task Force that will formulate economic strategies to checkmate China’s thriving presence in the region.


“Our relationships with the U.S. territories and freely associated states in the Indo-Pacific region are critical to our national security, especially as we face mounting encroachment and aggression by the People’s Republic of China," said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a ranking member of the natural resources committee.


"But we cannot forget that the value of our relationship with these important allies comes with the responsibility to support their economic development,” he added.


The task force is charged with evaluating the Biden administration's proposed new economic provisions for Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands— collectively known as the freely associated states— under the amended Compacts of Free Association or COFA.

Under the amended treaties, the U.S. is proposing $7 billion in economic packages to spread over 20 years and will be divided among the three island nations.


Committee members underscored the Pacific island nations' strategic importance to the U.S. given their proximity to the American territories in the region.


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The task force’s formation is the latest in a string of Washington’s China-centric schemes to woo the Pacific island nations and reclaim the United States’ position as a “partner of choice” in the region.


“Creating this task force with committee members on both sides of the political aisle is an essential step in understanding all the issues at play so we can better curtail the Chinese government's growing influence and strengthen and maintain America’s relationship with the freely associated states,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman, chair of the natural resources committee.


After years of U.S. neglect, some Pacific island states have succumbed to Beijing’s checkbook diplomacy, which Washington considers a Trojan Horse.


"There is perhaps no greater threat to America’s national security and future prosperity than the continued growth of the People’s Republic of China and its influence on the world stage,” Westerman said.


“The PRC has built a strategy to dominate the island nations and U.S. territories in the Pacific as a platform for the projection of its power. This strategy is a direct threat to our influence and economic interests in the region,” he added.


Rep. Aumua Amata Radewagen, American Samoa’s delegate and the task force’s co-chair, said the compacts with the FAS “are one of the most important tools that the United States has in supporting democracy and good governance, while denying China the ability to project strategic power throughout the vast Pacific region.”


Task Force members include  Co-Chairmen Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva will serve on the Task Force, along with U.S. Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Jim Moylan (R-Guam), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.),Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.)

She noted that last year’s U.S.-Pacific summit declaration hailed the compacts as "a cornerstone of U.S. regional strategy."


"Now the whole region and the world is watching what we do to finish the job and renew the COFA on mutually agreed terms acceptable to Congress, to see if the U.S. really means what we say,” said Radewagen, who co-chairs the task force along with Rep. Gregorio Sablan, CNMI’s delegate.


“This task force has assembled an impressive spectrum of members of Congress, an equally balanced 14-member group, with perspective from their various committees, adding expertise to all sides of examining the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the Pacific islands," she added.


“I look forward to working with these colleagues, as Congress fulfills its role in reviewing the compacts over the next few months, and ensuring these friendships with the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, are strong and enduring,” she added.


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