US, UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand form Pacific group to counter China

The US, UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have launched an informal group aimed at expanding economic and diplomatic relations with tiny Pacific island nations in a bid to challenge regional influence from China.

The US-led group, dubbed Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP), will seek to support “Pacific regionalism” and strengthen economic ties between Pacific islands and the rest of the world, the White House has said. in a statement Friday.

“We are united in our common determination to support a region that benefits the people of the Pacific. We are also united in how we achieve this vision – according to the principles of Pacific regionalism, sovereignty, transparency, responsibility and, above all, led and guided by the Pacific Islands,” the statement said.

The statement came a day after White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said he expected more top US officials to visit the Pacific island nation as Washington continues its efforts. efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the strategically important region near its territorial waters.

Campbell further claimed that Washington needs more diplomatic facilities in the region and more contact with Pacific island countries that “sometimes get less attention.”

The development comes as the Biden administration has pledged to commit more resources to the Indo-Pacific in the face of Beijing’s growing economic, military and security ties with island nations in the region vying for foreign investment.

The statement appeared to defy a strong demand from the Chinese Foreign Ministry a day earlier for the US-led NATO military alliance to avoid attempts to trigger a new Cold War by its attempts to expand. in the Asia-Pacific region, describing the move as dangerous.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed NATO leaders for provocative remarks on the issue and called the Western alliance a product of the Cold War.

“We call on NATO to stop drawing ideological lines, spreading false reports or making provocative statements about China, and to stop attempts to start a new Cold War,” Wang told reporters.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that since the NATO summit in Madrid will address China in a new strategic concept, he welcomes the leaders of the alliance’s Asia-Pacific partners – Australia , Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – at the top. .

He further called on NATO members to “realize the rise of China”, adding that he expects “allies to declare that China poses challenges to our values, our interests and our safety”.

Wenbin also lambasted Stoltenberg’s remarks, describing the military alliance as “a tool by which the United States maintains its hegemony and manipulates the European security landscape.”

“These measures are very dangerous and would certainly provoke caution and resolute opposition from Asia-Pacific countries and around the world,” Wenbin said.

“NATO has already messed up Europe,” so it should refrain from “trying to mess up Asia and the rest of the world as well,” he added.

Russia also condemned NATO’s continued eastward European expansion closer to its borders, citing the military alliance’s decision of its recent military operation in neighboring Ukraine, which would have been next to join the NATO.

Prior to its military operation against Kyiv, Moscow’s request from NATO for security guarantees against Ukraine’s joining the alliance was ignored and rejected by the military bloc, prompting Russia to begin the operation aimed at establishing buffer zones to guard against potential military threats.

Confirming Russia’s concerns about a US-led scheme against Russia, a major Washington-based daily reported last week that the United States and its European allies were preparing for a protracted war in Ukraine, even in price of a “global recession and growing hunger”. the Biden administration is trying to deny Russia’s victory by increasing military aid to Kyiv.

“Biden administration officials had discussed the possibility of a protracted conflict [in Ukraine] with global fallout even before February,” when U.S. intelligence suggested Russia was preparing to invade the country, the Washington Post reported on Saturday citing “a senior State Department official who spoke under the guise of anonymity to describe ongoing international deliberations”.

The daily further quoted the official as having said that the Biden administration hopes that the surge in the supply of new weapons to kyiv – in addition to successive waves of sanctions and the diplomatic isolation of Russia – could potentially prevent Moscow from continuing the fight.

“Even if that reality doesn’t materialize immediately, officials have described the stakes to ensure Russia can’t gobble up Ukraine…as so high that the administration is willing to tolerate even a global recession and growing hunger,” the report added.

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