Countering Chinese Inroads into Micronesia

As China’s economy has grown and China has assumed the role of foremost global trading power, Beijing has extended its influence to the South Pacific. The latest development has been reports of a new mega-resort on the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The United States, which has generally played the dominant role in this area that straddles key sea lanes of communications to the western Pacific, needs to keep a close eye on Chinese efforts to make inroads there.

For the U.S., the presence of the PRC in the South Pacific does not pose immediate military threats; rather, it promises longer term influence for Beijing, which is likely to erode regional support for the U.S. This longer term erosion does have potential military implications. Not only do key sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) transit the waters encompassed by these island nations, but they also offer potential sites for various bases, as was the case in World War II.

China’s efforts in the South Pacific are still at the nascent phase, so a relatively low-key American effort would serve to limit Chinese inroads. However, if the U.S. neglects the region, then Chinese investments are likely to generate disproportionate benefits.

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