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Congress Presses White House to Take Control of Pacific Island Talks

1 34 17
09.09.2021

A growing group of lawmakers is pressing the Biden administration to take control of talks to renew exclusive military access in three of the Pacific Island states, a move seen as critical to checking China, after discussion has bogged down partly over negotiations on decades-old nuclear waste.

At issue is the Pentagon’s continued access to basing rights in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, where the United States has placed missile defenses and hopes to expand airfields. The multi-year effort to secure military access comes as China has expanded its own foothold not only in the South China Sea, with airfields and military installations, but as far afield as Kiribati, an island group in the eastern Pacific, south of Hawaii; in response, the United States has sought to challenge Chinese claims to sovereignty with repeated freedom of navigation operations.

In a letter sent on Monday to Kurt Campbell, the U.S. National Security Council’s top Asia official, Reps. Katie Porter and Raúl Grijalva demanded the appointment of a presidential envoy to manage the talks, which hope to renew deals formally known as the Compacts of Free Association. State and Interior Department officials leading the talks have stonewalled the islanders on key issues, the lawmakers wrote, including dealing with the leakage of U.S. radioactive waste in parts of the Marshall Islands, a relic of the Pentagon’s first nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

A growing group of lawmakers is pressing the Biden administration to take control of talks to renew exclusive military access in three of the Pacific Island states, a move seen as critical to checking China, after discussion has bogged down partly over negotiations on decades-old nuclear waste.

At issue is the Pentagon’s continued access to basing rights in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, where the United States has placed missile defenses and hopes to expand airfields. The multi-year effort to secure military access comes as China has expanded its own foothold not only in the South China Sea, with airfields and military installations, but as far afield as Kiribati, an island group in the eastern Pacific, south........

© Foreign Policy


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