Pacific may be most likely to see ‘strategic surprise’ -U.S. policymaker Campbell

Asia Group Chairman and CEO Kurt M. Campbell attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China on March 23, 2019. REUTERS / Thomas Peter / File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Jan.10 (Reuters) – The Pacific may well be the part of the world most likely to experience a “strategic surprise,” US Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Monday, in comments apparently referring to possible Chinese ambitions to establish the Pacific. -insular bases.

Campbell told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that the United States had “enormous moral, strategic and historical interests” in the Pacific, but had not done enough to help the region, unlike countries like Australia and New Zealand.

“If you look and ask me, where are the places where we are most likely to see certain types of strategic surprises – the base or certain types of agreements or arrangements, it might just be in the Pacific,” he told an Australian. focused panel.

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Campbell called it the issue that worried him the most over the next two years, adding: “And we have very little time to work with partners like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, who have an interest in the Pacific, to step up our game at all levels. “

Campbell did not specify his baseline, but lawmakers in the Pacific Island Republic of Kiribati told Reuters last year that China had made plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge over the one of its remote islands about 3,000 km (1,860 miles) southwest of the US state. from Hawaii.

Construction on the tiny island of Kanton would provide China with a deep foothold in territory that had been firmly aligned with the United States and its allies since World War II.

Kiribati said in May that the plans backed by China were a non-military project designed to improve transport links and support tourism. Read more

Campbell said the United States and its allies must do more in the Pacific, including in the fight against COVID-19, the issue of fisheries and investments in clean energy.

Campbell followed up on remarks he made last week that Washington needed to “step up its game” on economic engagement in Asia. Read more

He said Australia had privately urged the United States to understand that as part of its strategic approach, it needed “a comprehensive, engaged, optimistic, commercial and commercial role.”

Campbell touted the so-called AUKUS Pact, under which the United States and Britain agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines – as well as summits between the United States, the Australia, India and Japan – as proof that US partnerships are causing China “heartburn.”

But some Indo-Pacific countries, many of which count China as their biggest trading partner, lamented what they see as insufficient US economic engagement after former President Donald Trump scrapped a trade deal now called the Comprehensive Agreement and progressive for the transpacific partnership.

Biden told Asian leaders in October that Washington would launch talks on creating an Indo-Pacific economic framework, but few details have emerged and his administration has avoided attempting to reach trade deals that critics say threaten. American jobs.

Australian Ambassador to Washington Arthur Sinodinos told the CSIS panel that Australia continues to raise the issue with the US Congress and that “we have not given up hope” of a trade policy review American.

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Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Kirsty Needham, Rami Ayyub and Costas Pitas; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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