Last Thursday, Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy introduced a bill to establish a permanent special envoy to the Pacific’s leading policy forum as a way to combat Beijing’s growing influence in the region.
The US and Pacific Islands Forum Partnership Act would establish a permanent US presence with the Pacific Islands Forum, which includes Australia, New Zealand, and 18 Pacific Island nations.
In a press release, Senator Kennedy’s office explained that the Pacific Island countries are of strategic importance to China as it seeks to dominate the region. In February, Beijing appointed Qian Bo to serve as its special envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum.
Kennedy said in the press release that China is putting diplomatic and economic pressure on Pacific Island nations as it seeks to “broaden its sphere of influence” throughout Southeast Asia. He said Congress can easily counter Beijing’s “antagonism” by establishing an American special envoy to the Forum as well.
According to Senator Kennedy’s office, a Senate-confirmed special envoy could strengthen cooperation and growth between the United States and the Pacific Island countries while elevating US diplomacy in the region and ensuring congressional accountability.
The press release explained that a special envoy can address the diverse threats from Beijing by increasing dialogue on the “economic, cyber security, and military concerns” of Pacific Island nations as well as “deepening trust.”
Kennedy’s bill has broad bipartisan support with Democrat Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire joining Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Haggerty of Tennessee, and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida in co-sponsoring the measure.
According to The Epoch Times, analysts have criticized the Biden administration for allowing Beijing to expand its influence and increase its aggression in the Pacific region.