On July 9, the president of Kiribati, in the Micronesia region, announced that his country would leave the Pacific Islands Forum, the PIF. The news comes at a bad time, as the leaders of the regional organization are at a crucial meeting in Fiji this week, until July 14. Some members hope to change the archipelago’s mind, suspected of having succumbed to the Chinese charm offensive.

Another less island country, within the Pacific Islands Forum. The Kiribatis leave the political-economic organization, and cause unease, just as the leaders of the other members are in Suva, the capital of Fiji and headquarters of the FIP, to discuss regional issues, which are important. In the background: fears of rising waters in this part of the world.

In a letter dated 9 July to the Secretary General, President Taneti Maamau justifies ” sovereign decision of his country, which is home to 120,000 souls, with immediate effect Not to appoint a person from his region, Micronesia, to head the Forum. Several other members of Micronesia threatened to do the same, but withdrew after a recent deal.

In February the Palau I had slam the door, expressing their disappointment at the failure of the candidate who got their favor. The recently reached agreement consists of a rotation of the general secretariat, explains AFP. The issue is expected to be discussed at this week’s leaders’ meeting, with the challenge of seeing whether FIP can actually weigh on issues relating to its survival in the future.

Kiribati does not feel heard

Founded in 1971, the FIP had 18 members listed on the organization’s official website. In addition to Kiribati and Palau, there are Australia, Cooks, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Marshalls, Samoa, Solomons, Tonga, Tuvalu and the archipelago of Vanuatu.

New Caledonia the 1st relate that in his letter the Head of State of Kiribati evokes the feeling of being sidelined. He said he was dissatisfied with the Suva agreement, signed last month, aimed at restoring the organization’s political unity and encouraging the Micronesian countries to stay. The deal was not signed by South Tarawa – the capital of Kiribati – and led to reforms that would go wrong.

Our colleagues add that the number one of Kiribati had also asked for the postponement of the summit, which fell on the national holiday of his country, on 12 July. A request, he complains, ” never considered, nor recognized “The foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe, however, hopes that the Kiribati authorities will reconsider their decision.

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A strategic archipelago in more ways than one

Concern dominates the Kiribati archipelago. These islands are low-lying and therefore vulnerable to rising waters. In May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi went there as part of a regional tourby signing ten agreements with different countries, on various issues such as climate or the economy, but not security, as New Caledonia 1st specifies.

On the other hand, an agreement on security issues, Beijing has indeed signed one with the Solomons, Last April. Enough to tease the United States, which has important strategic interests in the Pacific, starting with Hawaii. Interests that, in fact, concern China, in search of influence to break the vice of the Americans and their allies.

Kiribati benefits from a very large, resource-rich Exclusive Economic Zone located less than 3,000 kilometers from Hawaii. Finally, the archipelago is also home to a landing strip of almost two kilometers, threatened by rising waters. In short, all to please Beijing, which could contribute to raising the level of the country’s infrastructure, in exchange moderately.

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The hope that they do not go “all the way”

Australians and the New Zealanders come forward, faced with the risk of seeing Kiribati bring down this “blockade”, which is intended to be a “central architecture” in defining the region’s security strategy, but which is going through an existential crisis. The head of Australian diplomacy says he is working hard, even with Fiji, so that Kiribati doesn’t go ” at the end of their official decision to leave “.

According to ReutersAustralia would commit two million Australian dollars to meet drinking water needs there, in the face of severe drought, while New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Kiribati’s decision was ” disappointing “, in his eyes. Especially since the 51st session of PIF leaders is the first face-to-face meeting of the Forum since 2019.

On the agenda of the event, in bulk: the socio-economic and climatic challenges, Covid, or the ” regional dynamics, including geopolitics “. We are right on the subject. The” Strategy for the Pacific Blue Continent to 2050 “also needs to be updated. Pacific leaders should have discussed fishing, tuna.

Ministers must also examine key aspects of the Forum’s work program in relation to the Rarotonga Treaty and issues related to the regional nuclear heritage “, We can read on forum websiteincluding Japan’s intentions to discharge treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean “Finally, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy must intervene from a distance.

►Read more: In the Pacific, America’s nuclear past poisons the Marshall Islands

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