US offers counter-China funding for Pacific nations

The US State Department is to spend $US200 million on programmes for Pacific Island nations in order to counter Chinese influence.

Washington alleges China's "aggressive" behaviour is threatening the region's stability and the sovereignty of some nations.

Sandra Oudkirk, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said there had been a range of increasingly problematic behaviour from China in the region.

She said this included predatory economic activities and investments that undermined good governance.

The official said the funding would be extended to nations such as Palau and Papua New Guinea to promote development and protect their fishing industries against unwarranted competition from China.

The US Defense Department held recent talks with leaders of Palau and PNG regarding possibilities of establishing an American military presence in their countries.

Confirming the new funding during a media teleconference, Oudkirk said Pacific Island nations were "essential partners in fostering a free and open Indo-Pacific."

The State Department's $US200 million pledge is billed as aiming to support these nations and help ensure the US remains the preferred partner to work with in the region, she said.

A State Department fact sheet said the funding included US Agency for International Development programmes to support development challenges and regional fishery activities and strengthen the "resilience of Pacific Island economies against volatility associated with natural disasters and economic shocks," such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Next year USAID is expected to launch a $US15 million, five-year sustainable coastal fisheries management programme to address some of the drivers of llegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Pacific.