‘Stay vigilant’, Guam governor warns over China’s Pacific intrusion

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Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero ... "We should remain vigilant and focused on this most pressing [China] issue." Image: Pacific Island Times

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan in Tumon, Guam

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has expressed support for the Federated States of Micronesia’s move to oppose China’s proposed “action plan” for the Pacific island states, advising island governments to be vigilant against the communist nation’s attempts to control domestic affairs.

“Guam stands with you and your effort to minimise China’s efforts to control Pacific governments, assets and resources,” Leon Guerrero said in a July 19 letter to FSM President David Panuelo.

“With respect to your concerns and warnings relating to China’s proposals to address climate change, I take notice. We should remain vigilant and focused on this most pressing issue,” she added.

On May 27, Panuelo wrote to Pacific island state leaders to dissuade them from signing on to Beijing’s proposed China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision and the China-Pacific Island Countries Five Year Action Plan on Common Development (2022-2026).

At first glance, Panuelo said, the documents contained terms that were “attractive to many of us, perhaps all of us.”

“They speak of democracy and equity and freedom and justice, and compare and contrast these ideas with concepts that we, as Pacific Islands, would want to align ourselves with, such as sustainable development, tackling climate change, and economic growth,” Panuelo said.

However, he said the fine print revealed concerning details indicating China’s intention “to acquire access and control of our region, with the result being the fracturing of regional peace, security, and stability, all while in the name of accomplishing precisely that task”.

China pact rejected by 10 nations
While China has managed to seal a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, 10 Pacific island nations have eventually rejected Beijing’s “sustainable development” proposal.

Leon Guerrero said she agreed with Panuelo “that the US needs to increase its assistance to its island territories in the Pacific.”

“To that end, my administration will continue its work on pursuing climate change assistance and environmental justice advocacy for our islands,” she told the FSM leader.

The FSM, which is freely associated with the United States, has adopted a “friend to all and an enemy to none” foreign policy.

Torn between two superpowers, the FSM treads cautiously to define its relationship with China and the United States.

“My country is the only sovereign Pacific island country in the world that has both a great friendship with China as well as an enduring partnership, demonstrated by our Compact of Free Association, with the United States,” Panuelo wrote in his letter.

“We have ceaselessly advocated for joint China-US cooperation on tackling climate change and we have ceaselessly advocated for joint China-US promotion of peace and harmony in our Blue Pacific Continent. My country’s unique context, I believe, compels me to speak,” he said.

‘Unique relationships’
Leon Guerrero said she recognised the FSM’s “unique relationships” with the United States and China.

“The perspectives you and your diplomats have developed while navigating between these two superpowers are valuable, especially as we chart a course on partnering with them for the good of our islands while exercising reasonable precautions.

“In fostering good relations. I appreciate your insights and perspectives shared with our Pacific brothers and sisters,” the Guam governor told Panuelo.

As a US territory dubbed as “the tip of the spear,” Leon Guerrero said Guam played a role in homeland security.

“The island of Guam is in the midst of the largest peacetime military buildup in US history, so we also have a perspective to share,” the governor said.

“We see firsthand the urgency the US is exerting to showcase its military force and willingness to keep Pacific sea lanes open for peaceful free-flowing trade among nations.”

Mar-Vic Cagurangan is editor-in-chief of the Pacific Island Times. Republished with permission.

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