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US Cautions Pacific Islands As Hawaii’s Neighbour Kiribati Stations Chinese Police

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Following Reuters’ revelation that Chinese police are operating in the remote atoll nation of Kiribati, which is neighboring Hawaii, the United States on Monday issued a warning to the governments of the Pacific Islands not to accept aid from Chinese security troops.

Uniformed Chinese officers were assisting police in community policing and a crime database program, according to Eeri Aritiera, Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, who spoke with Reuters last week.

With its closest island 2,160 kilometers (1,340 miles) south of Honolulu, Kiribati is a republic of 115,000 people. The announcement comes as Beijing, in an increasingly intense rivalry with the United States, is redoubling its efforts to forge stronger security connections in the Pacific Islands.

In response, a US State Department spokesman used the People’s Republic of China’s acronym and said, “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.”

He went on to say that China’s “transnational repression efforts,” which included attempting to set up police stations all around the world, were not acceptable to Washington. “We are concerned about the potential implications security agreements and security-related cyber cooperation with the PRC may have for any Pacific Island nation’s autonomy,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to being relatively close to Hawaii, Kiribati is seen as strategically significant due to its large exclusive economic zone, which spans more than 3.5 million square kilometers (1.35 million square miles) in the Pacific. It is home to a Japanese satellite tracking station, and China has raised concerns in the United States by announcing plans to reconstruct a World War II American military runway on Kiribati’s Kanton Island.

In retaliation, the US declared in October that it intended to establish an embassy in Kiribati and promised to modernize the port on Kanton Island, a former US military installation.

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