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Biden tells Pacific islands leaders that he hears their warnings about climate change and will act

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WASHINGTON, Sept 26: President Joe Biden on Monday told leaders from the 18-member Pacific
Islands Forum that he has heard their warnings about the impact of climate change on their region
and that his administration is committed to helping them meet the challenge.
Pacific islands leaders gathered on Monday for the start of a two-day Washington summit. Many
have been critical of rich countries for not doing enough to control climate change despite being
responsible for much of the problem, and for profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations to
mitigate the effects.
At the summit’s start, Biden said his administration is requesting Congress approve $200 million in
new assistance for the region, including financing to help the islands prepare for climate and natural
hazards and improve infrastructure. Biden has put a premium on improving ties in the Pacific at a
time of rising U.S. concern about China’s growing military and economic influence.
“I want you to know I hear you, the people in the United States and around the world hear you,”
Biden told the leaders. “We hear your warnings of a rising sea and (that) they pose an existential
threat to your nations. We hear your calls for reassurance that you never, never, never will lose your
statehood, or membership of the U.N. as a result of a climate crisis. Today, the United States is
making it clear that this is our position as well.”
“Today, we celebrate shared history, common values and people-to-people ties between our two
nations, Tagelagi said at the Niue ceremony.” We have been looking forward to this day.”
Brown welcomed the elevation of U.S. relations with the Cook Islands and said the U.S.-Pacific
islands partnership could be an important tool for helping the region achieve its aspirations.
“These milestones celebrate areas of change and demonstrate that with unshakable resolve and
leadership, remarkable achievements are possible,” Brown said.
The forum includes Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru,
New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa,
Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Kiribati signed onto a $29.1 million partnership with the U.S.-backed Millennium Corporation
Challenge. The group will assist the island country with dozens of low-lying atolls and help boost its
workforce.
Some of the leaders attended an NFL game in Baltimore on Sunday and visited a U.S. Coast Guard
cutter in the city’s harbor for a briefing on combating illegal fishing and other maritime issues. Biden
announced Monday that later this year he would deploy a U.S. Coast Guard vessel to the region to
collaborate and train with Pacific islands nations.
At last year’s summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific strategy, an outline of its plan to assist the
region’s leaders on pressing issues like climate change, maritime security and protecting the region
from overfishing. The administration pledged the U.S. would add $810 million in new aid for Pacific
islands nations over the next decade, including $130 million on efforts to stymie the impacts of
climate change.
The leaders also met on Monday with Biden’s special envoy on climate, John Kerry, for closed-door
talks focused on climate change. Blinken and U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield were
hosting the leaders at the State Department for a dinner.
Kerry and Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, will
host the leaders on Tuesday for climate talks with members of the philanthropic community. The
leaders also plan to meet with members of Congress. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will host a
roundtable with the leaders and members of the business community.
Power last month travelled to Fiji to open a new USAID mission that will manage agency programs in
nine Pacific islands countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Republic of the Marshall
Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. The U.S. this year has opened embassies in
Solomon Islands and Tonga, and is on track to open an embassy in Vanuatu early next year.

Biden earlier this year had to cut short a planned visit to the Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a
historic stop in Papua New Guinea, as well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of
the so-called Quad partnership so he could focus on debt limit talks in Washington. He would have
been the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua New Guinea.
Biden is set to honor Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with a state visit next month. (AP)

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