BLUFThe potential opening of Kiribati protected fishing grounds and its airport to China, may have serious environmental and strategic consequences.
Kiribati, population 121,392, is 2,963 kilometres southwest of Hawaii. It has a WW2; US built an international standard airport. It is possible that China may be interested in increasing its influence. This ASPI article makes the following points:
- The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has a 'Blue Pacific' strategy.
- Australia and New Zealand support the strategy, and the US has offered symbolic acknowledgement through its BLUE Pacific Act.
- States must act in conformity with the strategy's spirit and aims and maintain collective support.
- The Kiribati government plans to deregister the huge World Heritage-listed Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) to allow commercial fishing (mainly tuna).
- The Kiribati government noted that Kiribati was not receiving much income from the PIPA.
- China is believed to be behind Kiribati's move to deregister the PIPA.
- The Treaty of Friendship and Territorial Sovereignty between Kiribati and the United States asserts that US-built facilities such as the Kanton airfield 'shall not be made available to third parties for military purposes except with the agreement of the Government of the United States.
- The former president and the opposition are concerned that deregistering PIPA might affect Kiribati's environmental credibility.
- The proposed withdrawal of Kiribati from the PIF may be a factor in the decision.
- May 2021 the Drive China Wants To Revive A Strategically Located Airfield Deep in the Pacific: Report.
- May 2021 ABC Kiribati opposition in the dark about possible upgrade of Kanton island runway by China
- Nov 2021 1News Fears over China’s involvement in Kiribati’s ditching of marine reserve
- Nov 2021 SBS The seas are coming for us in Kiribati. Will Australia rehome us?