The Republic of Palau is moving against China by inviting the United States to build new military bases in the Pacific island country, the Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday.
A small island nation located between Guam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, Palau occupies a critical region where Beijing has looked to expand its influence.
“Palau is a very important place in the Pacific,” U.S. ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland told the Journal. “Palau has suffered from predatory economic behavior and malign influence from the PRC. … Palau is a good friend of the United States and a great partner in the Pacific.”
China, which has focused on asserting its influence over the neighboring South China Sea, now sports the largest navy fleet in the world and has constructed underwater warning systems and new aircraft carriers. The United States’ growing relationship with Palau corresponds with Washington’s efforts to counter Chinese supremacy in the region by developing stronger ties with allies.
“Our robust network of allies and partners remains the enduring asymmetric advantage we have over near-peer rivals, namely China, that attempt to undermine and subvert the rules-based order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in an August speech.
In recent months, the United States has conducted multiple freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In August, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Palaun ally Taiwan since 1979.