Why a Crisis in the Pacific Islands Matters for Washington and Beijing

Last week, five Pacific islands countries withdrew from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the region’s premier multilateral organization. Collectively comprising the sub-region of Micronesia, the countries of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, and Nauru announced their intent to leave the PIF, citing the organization’s failure to adequately represent the Micronesian states in the PIF’s top leadership role.

While the decision of some of the world’s smallest countries to leave a multilateral body few Americans have ever heard of generated — predictably — minimal attention in Washington, the withdrawal of the Micronesian states from the PIF will have a significant, and potentially lasting, impact on U.S. interests. It is also likely to strengthen China’s influence in a region where Beijing is steadily increasing its economic and political sway.  

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