US Raises Alarm Over China’s Security Moves in Island Close to Hawaii, Cites Regional Tensions

The United States has issued a stern caution to Pacific Island nations on Monday, advising against accepting assistance from Chinese security forces.

The warning comes in the wake of reports indicating the presence of Chinese police in Kiribati, a remote island nation and a neighbor of Hawaii.

The acting Police Commissioner of Kiribati, Eeri Aritiera, revealed last week that uniformed Chinese officers were collaborating with local police in community policing efforts and implementing a crime database program.

Kiribati, with a population of 115,000, is strategically located 2,160 km (1,340 miles) south of Honolulu, making it of particular interest to major powers.

This development coincides with Beijing’s renewed efforts to strengthen security ties in the Pacific Islands, further intensifying the geopolitical rivalry with the United States.

Responding to inquiries, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department expressed concern about the involvement of Chinese security forces in the region.

The spokesperson stated, “We do not believe importing security forces from the PRC will help any Pacific Island country. Instead, doing so risks fueling regional and international tensions.”

Highlighting the U.S. stance against China’s actions, the official added that Washington did not tolerate China’s “transnational repression efforts,” including its attempts to establish police stations globally.

 The potential implications of security agreements and cyber cooperation with China on the autonomy of Pacific Island nations were also underscored.

Kiribati’s strategic importance lies not only in its proximity to Hawaii but also in possessing one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones, covering over 3.5 million square km (1.35 million square miles) of the Pacific.

 The nation hosts a Japanese satellite tracking station, and China’s plans to rebuild a World War Two U.S. military airstrip on Kiribati’s Kanton Island have raised concerns in Washington.

In response, the United States pledged in October to upgrade the wharf on Kanton Island, a former U.S. military base, and expressed its intention to open an embassy in Kiribati.

The role of Chinese police in Kiribati has raised questions globally and while Kiribati’s acting police commissioner asserted that China’s policing assistance was requested in 2022, Chinese embassy sources confirmed the presence of uniformed officers but denied the establishment of a police station.

China’s broader attempts to forge a region-wide security and trade deal in the Pacific have faced resistance, with the Pacific Islands Forum rejecting such efforts in 2022.

Notably, Chinese police have been deployed in the Solomon Islands since 2022, following a secret security pact criticized by the United States and Australia as undermining regional stability.

Papua New Guinea, the largest Pacific Island nation, recently declared its rejection of a Chinese offer of police assistance and surveillance technology, amid criticism from the United States and Australia over ongoing negotiations with China.

Chioma Kalu