Biden Hears Pacific Island Leaders 09/26 06:09
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden on Monday told leaders from the
18-member Pacific Islands Forum that he has heard their warnings about the
impact of climate change on their region and that his administration is
committed to helping them meet the challenge.
Pacific islands leaders gathered Monday for the start of a two-day
Washington summit. Many have been critical of rich countries for not doing
enough to control climate change despite being responsible for much of the
problem, and for profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations to
mitigate the effects.
At the summit's start, Biden said his administration is requesting Congress
approve $200 million in new assistance for the region, including financing to
help the islands prepare for climate and natural hazards and improve
infrastructure. Biden has put a premium on improving ties in the Pacific at a
time of rising U.S. concern about China's growing military and economic
"I want you to know I hear you, the people in the United States and around
the world hear you," Biden told the leaders. "We hear your warnings of a rising
sea and (that) they pose an existential threat to your nations. We hear your
calls for reassurance that you never, never, never will lose your statehood, or
membership of the U.N. as a result of a climate crisis. Today, the United
States is making it clear that this is our position as well."
As part of the summit, the U.S. is formally establishing diplomatic
relations with two South Pacific nations, the Cook Islands and Niue. Secretary
of State Antony Blinken took part in separate signing ceremonies with Niue
Premier Dalton Tagelagi and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown to mark the
new elevated relations.
"Today, we celebrate shared history, common values and people-to-people ties
between our two nations, Tagelagi said at the Niue ceremony. "We have been
looking forward to this day."
Brown welcomed the elevation of U.S. relations with the Cook Islands and
said the U.S.-Pacific islands partnership could be an important tool for
helping the region achieve its aspirations.
"These milestones celebrate areas of change and demonstrate that with
unshakable resolve and leadership, remarkable achievements are possible," Brown
The forum includes Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French
Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New
Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu,
Kiribati signed onto a $29.1 million partnership with the U.S.-backed
Millennium Corporation Challenge. The group will assist the island country with
dozens of low-lying atolls and help boost its workforce.
Some of the leaders attended an NFL game in Baltimore on Sunday and visited
a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in the city's harbor for a briefing on combating
illegal fishing and other maritime issues. Biden announced Monday that later
this year he would deploy a U.S. Coast Guard vessel to the region to
collaborate and train with Pacific islands nations.
At last year's summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific strategy, an
outline of its plan to assist the region's leaders on pressing issues like
climate change, maritime security and protecting the region from overfishing.
The administration pledged the U.S. would add $810 million in new aid for
Pacific islands nations over the next decade, including $130 million on efforts
to stymie the impacts of climate change.
The leaders also met Monday with Biden's special envoy on climate, John
Kerry, for closed-door talks focused on climate change. Blinken and U.N.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield were hosting the leaders at the State
Department for a dinner.
Kerry and Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International
Development, will host the leaders on Tuesday for climate talks with members of
the philanthropic community. The leaders also plan to meet with members of
Congress. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will host a roundtable with the
leaders and members of the business community.
Power last month traveled to Fiji to open a new USAID mission that will
manage agency programs in nine Pacific islands countries: Fiji, Kiribati,
Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States
of Micronesia, and Palau. The U.S. this year has opened embassies in Solomon
Islands and Tonga, and is on track to open an embassy in Vanuatu early next
Biden earlier this year had to cut short a planned visit to the
Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a historic stop in Papua New Guinea, as
well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the
so-called Quad partnership so he could focus on debt limit talks in Washington.
He would have been the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua New Guinea.
Biden is set to honor Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with a
state visit next month.