For the United States, a powerhouse in the Pacific, it is crucial to maintain favorable relationships with the island nations situated between Hawaii and the Philippines. A diplomatic representative from the Freely Associated States (FAS) tackled this late last month, speaking at the Hudson Institute.

FAS special envoy Joseph Yun said the US should continue fostering influential ties with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau to remain a Pacific power.

As you all know by now, China has been quite aggressive in rapidly modernizing its military in recent years, mainly focusing on developing advanced technologies such as hypersonic missiles, stealth aircraft, and, notably, its naval capabilities. While Beijing has been cranking up its defense spending to boost its military presence in the South China Sea, it also has its eyes set on expanding its influence in the southwestern part of the Pacific region.

Driven by its expansionist ambition, Beijing has been seeking to pursue this goal in the Pacific region primarily through diplomatic and economic relations, which is something Washington has been slow to respond to due to other factors.

According to an article published by Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in October last year, Washington’s oversight in addressing the growing concerns – including climate change, economic development, and sea pollution – in the southwest Pacific region has enabled China, in one way or another, to spread its influence among these island nations. It also mentioned how America’s quest to fight against so-called Islamic terrorists, especially in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, had somehow paved a one-track mind and failed to consider that a poverty-ridden nation like China could and would eventually rise as the second-largest economic and military powerhouse.