The US’ Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs tells 1News that America’s aim is to create a region of “allies, friends, and partners.”
Daniel Kritenbrink spoke exclusively to 1News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver on Q+A this morning. The assistant secretary of state has been touring the Pacific this week and touched down in New Zealand after meetings in Beijing.
“We’ve decided it’s very much in our interest to step up our game, and we have attempted to do that. I’d like to think that we’ve done that successfully, and we’re going to keep at it,” he said.
“We’re going to do that at a pace that’s comfortable with our Pacific Island friends, and we’re only going to do what our Pacific Island friends ask us to do and want us to do.”
It follows a security deal signed between Papua New Guinea and the United States, which in turn followed a security deal signed between the Solomon Islands and China.
“We’ve had a defence partnership with Papua New Guinea since 1975, and in many ways, the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) is really just a refreshing and modernisation of that, and that will be done in a very transparent way,” Kritenbrink said.
He also noted that the AUKUS agreement signed between the US, Australia and Britain, will only involve nuclear-powered submarines, and not an increase the presence of nuclear weapons in the region.
Kritenbrink’s meetings in Beijing were held to discuss communication between the US military and China’s People’s Liberation Army.
“We think it’s unacceptable that we don’t have open channels of communication in the military-to-military space as well,” said Kritenbrink, saying such communication would lessen the chance of accidents or miscalculations blowing up into major incidents.
“And, look, our view is we don’t engage in dialogue as a favour to either party; we do this because this is how responsible nations ought to engage. I actually think it’s unfortunate and potentially dangerous that our militaries aren’t talking with one another.”
However, he conceded that while the talks had been conducted constructively, they hadn’t resulted in significant headway.