WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told leaders from the 18-member Pacific Islands Forum that he has heard their warnings about the impact of climate change on their region and that his administration is committed to helping them meet the challenge, according toAP.
Pacific islands leaders gathered on Monday for the start of a two-day Washington summit. Many have been critical of rich countries for not doing enough to control climate change despite being responsible for much of the problem, and for profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations to mitigate the effects.
At the summit’s start, Biden said his administration is requesting Congress approve $200 million in new assistance for the region, including financing to help the islands prepare for climate and natural hazards and improve infrastructure. Biden has put a premium on improving ties in the Pacific at a time of rising US concern about China’s growing military and economic influence.
“I want you to know I hear you, the people in the United States and around the world hear you,” Biden told the leaders. “We hear your warnings of a rising sea and (that) they pose an existential threat to your nations. We hear your calls for reassurance that you never, never, never will lose your statehood, or membership of the UN as a result of a climate crisis. Today, the United States is making it clear that this is our position as well.”
As part of the summit, the US is formally establishing diplomatic relations with two South Pacific nations, the Cook Islands and Niue. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took part in separate signing ceremonies with Niue Premier Dalton Tagelagi and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown to mark the new elevated relations.
“Today, we celebrate shared history, common values and people-to-people ties between our two nations, Tagelagi said at the Niue ceremony. ”We have been looking forward to this day.”
Brown welcomed the elevation of US relations with the Cook Islands and said the US-Pacific islands partnership could be an important tool for helping the region achieve its aspirations.
“These milestones celebrate areas of change and demonstrate that with unshakable resolve and leadership, remarkable achievements are possible,” Brown said.