US secretary of state warns Pacific nations of China’s ‘predatory’ investments

US secretary of state warns Pacific nations of China’s ‘predatory’ investments

During visit to Tonga, Antony Blinken takes aim at China’s growing engagements in region, terming some of them ‘problematic behavior’

By Anadolu staff

ANKARA(AA) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Tonga on his maiden visit to the small Pacific nation on Wednesday, took aim at China's growing engagements in the region, terming some of them "problematic behavior."

Blinken, who became the first-ever US secretary of state to visit Tonga, arrived in the capital Nuku'alofa as part of Washington's drive to increase its influence across the region and to counter Beijing's growing presence.

Tonga, a Polynesian archipelago of about 100,000 people, is the latest in a host of Pacific island states receiving a renewed Washington's diplomatic push.

In May, Washington opened its embassy in the Tongan capital.

The US has been the dominant military force in the Pacific since World War II. However, China has appeared as the rising military power in the region amid its expanding diplomatic reach, investment, police training and security deals.

Blinken visited China in June amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. His trip marked the first visit by a US secretary of state since 2018.

Talking to reporters after meeting the Tongan prime minister and other officials at St. George Government Building, he warned the Pacific nations of Beijing's "predatory" investments, which, according to him, are done in a way that can actually "undermine good governance and promote corruption.

"What I think one of the things that we’ve seen is that as China’s engagement in the region has grown, there has been some, from our perspective, increasingly problematic behavior, including at the same time the assertion of unlawful maritime claims – something that I’ve raised extensively when I was in China – the militarization of disputed features – for example, in the South China Seas, some predatory economic activities, and also investments, " Blinken said.

The secretary of state said that the US has "no objection" to the investments or engagements by any other country, including China, if they are done “transparently, according to the rule of law, with sustainable financing.”

“On the contrary, if it’s done in a productive way, if it really is responsive to the needs of people, if it helps generate a race to the top with others who want to help out, that’s a good thing," he maintained.

His remarks followed Tongan Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku's reply to a question about Chinese investment in his country.

“We have started officially to actually start paying off our debt to China. We don’t have any problems or concerns with regards to that,” he said.

Blinken further said that Washington respects the sovereign decisions that countries make "about with whom they want to do business or seek investment or assistance."

He said that US President Joe Biden is fully committed to working with Tonga, and with all Pacific Islands.

Earlier, soon after his arrival, Blinken laid a wreath at the seafront Cenotaph, a World War II memorial.

He also met with Tongan Crown Prince Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala, Foreign Minister Fekita 'Utoikamanu, and Peace Corps Volunteers, before continuing his journey to Wellington, New Zealand.

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