US to Establish Diplomatic Ties With Cook Islands and Niue

Biden moves to shore up ties in Pacific, whose leaders have issues on climate change
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 24, 2023 11:45 AM CDT
US to Establish Diplomatic Ties With Cook Islands and Niue
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Stephen Brown speaks during the Korea-Pacific Islands Summit in Seoul in May.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool, File)

President Biden plans to establish diplomatic relations Monday with two South Pacific nations, the Cook Islands and Niue, as his administration aims to show to Pacific Island leaders that it is committed to increasing American presence in the region. The announcement comes as Biden prepares to welcome leaders to Washington for a two-day US-Pacific Island Forum Summit expected to focus heavily on the impact of climate change. The president has put a premium on improving ties in the Pacific as US concern about China's growing military and economic influence increases. Plans for the diplomatic move were confirmed by two senior administration officials ahead of the announcement, the AP reports.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden, who will host the leaders at the White House on Monday, would use the summit to strengthen "ties with the Pacific Islands and discuss how we address complex global challenges, like tackling the existential threat of climate change, advancing economic growth, and promoting sustainable development." The leaders were scheduled to be feted on Sunday at a Baltimore Ravens football game and to visit a Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore Harbor for a briefing by the commandant of the US Coast Guard on combatting illegal fishing and other maritime issues, per the AP.

Pacific Island leaders have been critical of rich countries for not doing enough to address climate change despite being responsible for much of the problem, and for profiting from loans to vulnerable nations to mitigate the effects. At last year's summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific strategy, a plan to help on pressing issues like climate change, maritime security, and overfishing. The administration pledged the US would add $810 million in new aid for Pacific Island nations over the next decade, including $130 million on climate change. The forum includes Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

(Read more President Biden stories.)

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