China Sets a Course for the U.S.'s Pacific Domain

Feb 22, 2019 | 11:00 GMT

Tuvalu is one among scores of island nations dotting the Pacific Ocean.

From the lagoon, the contour of the land is visable on August 15, 2018, in Funafuti, Tuvalu. 

(FIONA GOODALL/Getty Images for Lumix)


  • The decrease in U.S. interest in Pacific islands like the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau will provide further openings for Chinese influence in the area at a time when competition is mounting between Washington and Beijing.
  • Remote islands that are unable to foster a self-sustaining economy will continue to leverage their strategic position to extract benefits from both sides. 
  • Australia, Japan and South Korea will all be critical in helping Washington to counterbalance growing Chinese influence here.

James Michener called the Pacific Ocean "the meeting ground for Asia and America," a world of endless ocean and "infinite specks of coral" that form a highway between east and west. The gradual emergence of the United States as the premier Pacific power, cemented in the wake of World War II and the subsequent Cold War, involved the establishment of footholds on these vital stepping stones. Today, these footholds remain -- either as sovereign U.S.-held territories or freely associated states -- but the end of the Cold War reduced these lands' importance to the United States. With China rising and great power competition heating up, these islands have gained renewed strategic prominence. Beijing's maritime ambitions center first and foremost on the first island chain that runs from the Kurils to Borneo, but the second island chain from Japan south to the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Micronesia, Palau and Papua New...

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