1 Sep 2012

US to follow NZ's lead on China in the Pacific - Clinton

6:21 pm on 1 September 2012

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US is following New Zealand's lead in working with China in the Pacific region.

Mrs Clinton is in the Cook Islands for the final day of the Pacific Islands Forum and met with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Saturday morning.

She has announced initiatives for security, fisheries and women in the Pacific.

Mrs Clinton has attended the post-forum dialogue meeting alongside representatives from China and other non-Pacific countries.

She says some people see the United States' renewed engagement in the Pacific as a hedge against the influence of other countries which act in the region.

Mrs Clinton says the US welcomes co-operating with a number of partners, including China.

She says in her experience, China is becoming more interested in learning from, understanding and co-operating with other countries.

"New Zealand sets a good example for the work that we think can be done with China, New Zealand has worked with China on water issues for example, we want to see more multinational development projects that include the participation of China."

Initiatives launched and expanded

Mrs Clinton has announced expansions to maritime surveillance programmes, to promote regional law enforcement and security, with the goal of making sure the people of the Pacific benefit from the ocean's resources.

She has also launched the Rarotonga Partnership for women in the region, which is a joint programme between New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

Mrs Clinton says the US has a long history in the Pacific and has underwritten the security that has made it possible for the people of the region to trade and travel securely.

"The Pacific half of Asia-Pacific doesn't always get as much attention as it should.

"But the United States knows that this region is strategically and economically vital and becoming more so."

China denies seeking dominance

China has denied it is trying to extend its influence or gain dominance in the Pacific region.

John Key has referred at the leaders' meeting to what he described as China's tentacles growing around the Pacific.

However Vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said China is working in the Pacific as a partner to Pacific nations, not to compete with any other countries.

"We are here to work with island countries to achieve sustainable development because both China and the Pacific Island countries belong to the rank of developing countries."

Mrs Clinton was asked about China's increasing influence in the Pacific and whether her visit reflects US concern.

The Secretary of State said it was important that China has relationships with as many countries as possible, and that the region was big enough for everyone.

There was a veiled warning, however, about putting conditions on aid or loans. "Here in the Pacific we want to see China act in a fair and transparent way, we want to see them play a positive role in navigation and maritime security issues," she said.