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Washington's overreaction in Pacific is telling: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-28 20:14

Reports that up to a dozen Chinese police officers are working in the remote atoll nation of Kiribati have again touched a nerve of the China hawks in Washington, obsessed as they are with their zero-sum game and geopolitical rivalry.

A US State Department spokesperson warned the Pacific island country on Monday that it should not "import security forces from China" as "doing so risks fueling regional and international tensions".

The warning came after Kiribati's acting Police Commissioner Eeri Aritiera told Reuters last week that uniformed Chinese officers were working with local police officers in community policing and a crime database program, besides teaching them kung fu. He said the Chinese police, who arrived last year on a six-month rotation, "only provide the services that the Kiribati Police Service needs or requests".

Kiribati is a nation of 115,000 people whose closest island is more than 2,000 kilometers away from Hawaii. As a sovereign nation, it is free to choose the partners it wants to work with in whatever areas. That Washington seeks to dictate how Kiribati should conduct its security-related cooperation with other countries reflects the prevailing hegemonic mindset in the US.

There is actually no justification for perceiving a small Chinese police presence tasked with helping maintain social stability in Kiribati as a cause for alarm. It only serves to show how eager US politicians are to grab at anything that they can use as a stick with which to beat Beijing.

China and the Pacific island countries have in recent years expanded exchanges and cooperation in many fields, including law enforcement, which has brought tangible benefits to local people. China has made it clear the productive engagement does not target a third party and that it does not have any intention of engaging in geopolitical competition with the US.

The US, on the other hand, regards its defense and economic assistance to the Pacific island countries as a means to counter China's influence in the region. Despite the Pacific island countries having described their foreign policy as "friend to all, enemy to none", the US has wielded its influence to try to persuade them to choose sides. For example, the US has been pressuring the Solomon Islands to scrap the security cooperation deal it signed with China in 2022.

For the good of regional peace and stability, the US must stop seeing the Pacific island countries as being in its own backyard, still less pawns in its geopolitical rivalry with China.

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