A top US State Department official told reporters Monday that China needs to meet international standards with its loans and infrastructure developments in the Pacific islands.
Speaking to media following a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization in Papua New Guinea last weekend, Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to APEC Matthew Matthews addressed broad United States interests in the Pacific island region. He also fielded questions from journalists around the region, most of which focused on the impact of China in the region and the US response.
Matthews highlighted “the ongoing and critical importance of the Pacific Islands to the United States,” and said the US is “in the process of enhancing our security, economic, and people-to-people’s ties with the Pacific islands and we’re working to ensure that the Pacific remains a free and open architecture that allows for a rapid and effective development for all peoples in the region.”
As an example of this “enhancement,” Matthews cited the US Congress’ recent approval of funding for the Compact of Free Association with Palau after over seven years of delay.
“The United States is inextricably linked to the region and remains as committed as ever to our shared security and prosperity,” he said. “We’re seeking to respect across the region sovereignty, the rule of law, free and fair reciprocal trading frameworks, freedom of navigation and private sector-led development.”
He made numerous references to cooperation with allies in the region — Australia, New Zealand, Japan and others — and repeatedly said China needs to meet international standards with its aid program and ensure that its loans are helping island economies to prosper.
Matthews said the United States is “very welcoming and supporting of New Zealand’s Pacific Reset policy” and similarly supports Australia’s “Step-Up policy” with regard to the Pacific. “We hope to be able to increase our engagement in the Pacific as well under the Indo-Pacific strategy,” he added.
Matthews also spoke positively about Japan’s recent hosting of the Pacific Leaders Meeting (PALM).
“We see this as kind of synergistic and renewed commitment on all these key partners,” said Matthews. “We see this all as extremely constructive because all these players do adhere to international standards and they’ve been good for governance and supportive of security within the region.”
In reply to one of several questions from reporters about China, Matthews said called for China to follow standards established by such international finance institutions as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
It will be good “if they (China) can adhere to the kind of guidelines that those institutions have in place; if they look at the approach of Australia and New Zealand, the United States, Japan, other traditional donors in the region that have been working over the longer term to improve economic outcomes in the Pacific. But they really need to step up and meet international standards.”
Read more about this in the May 25, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.