The Saturday edition of Yomiuri reported that the NSC’s Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell disclosed on Thursday that the United States will launch a new framework of cooperation to step up U.S. engagement with Pacific islands by working with like-minded countries such as Japan and Australia. Yomiuri wrote that the move is aimed at countering China, which has been increasing its influence over the Pacific island states on the economic and security fronts. The paper said the UK, France, and New Zealand are also expected to join the new framework. Campbell reportedly said the Pacific is “strategically an extremely important region” and expressed hope “to keep a Pacific environment that’s open, that’s healthy, that’s productive, and free from coercion.” The Friday evening edition of Nikkei carried a similar report.
Yomiuri wrote in a separate article that a strong sense of alarm over China’s rapidly increasing engagement with Pacific island states in the military sphere is behind the U.S. move to establish a new framework, adding that the U.S. is hoping to involve allies and friends that are traditionally influential in the region based on the belief that the U.S. alone will not be able to counter China. Noting that the launch of AUKUS last year provoked a backlash from France and New Zealand, which were not included in the security framework, the paper said the U.S. aims to rebuild its partnerships with them by having both nations join the new framework from the start. The daily wrote that although the U.S. has been countering China’s maritime push in the East and South China Seas at international conferences, Pacific island states have been a “blind spot,” allowing China to expand its influence in the region. The paper speculated that the tug-of-war between the U.S. and China is likely to intensify with the establishment of the new framework.