US-Pacific islands meeting begins
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Pacific Islands Forum Leaders begin a milestone summit in Washington this morning, as part of a two-day engagement and talanoa with the Biden administration.
The sessions will discuss and shape the region's collective partnership with the U.S.government, particularly as it reviews and looks to strengthen its engagement in the Pacific region.
Framed around the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent addressing climate action, the meetings provide an opportunity to discuss key regional priorities including, strategic partnerships, climate resilience and clean energy, trade and economic recovery, maritime domain, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or IUU, and law enforcement.
“Our Pacific Forum nations are here, at the invitation of the U.S. government, and I know we can all appreciate the opportunity provided for everyone to have some forward-looking dialogue," said Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum.
“This is a historic meeting for our region and under the guidance of our leaders, I am confident that we can, and we will secure and build a partnership that will support the realization of our leaders' vision and ambitions as outlined in the 2050 Strategy,” he added.
The U.S. and the Forum have teamed up to host the meeting, which will culminate on Friday in a discussion with President Joe Biden on the strategic importance of the Pacific, and the future of U.S;-Pacific relations.
It is understood the face-to-face discussion with President Biden will be like a leaders retreat, with an outcomes document to serve as a summary of the meeting. The leaders will be hosted to a Presidential Dinner at the White House as the formal end to the program.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicked off the summit on Wednesday with a luncheon for the Pacific Island leaders and other senior officials from the region.
U.S climate envoy John Kerry held a climate roundtable with the leaders, and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was joining them for a dinner hosted by the U.S Coast Guard.
The leaders also are to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S business leaders.
Leaders from Fiji, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and New Caledonia are attending. Vanuatu and Nauru are sending representatives, and Australia, New Zealand and the secretary-general of the Pacific Island Forum sent observers, according to the White House.
“This summit reflects our deep, enduring partnership with the Pacific Islands; one that’s underpinned by shared history, values, and enduring people-to-people ties,” Blinken told leaders as he opened the summit. Talks are expected to touch on climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection and the Indo-Pacific.
The first-of-its-kind summit comes as the administration has sought to demonstrate that the U.S remains committed to being an enduring player in the region.
While the high-level gathering is welcomed by the region’s leaders as a signal of Biden’s commitment to the Pacific, there’s also a healthy skepticism about whether the United States will remain engaged for the longer term in the Pacific Islands. The area has received diminished attention from the U.S in the aftermath of the Cold War and China has increasingly filled the vacuum, analysts say.