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U.S. pushes back on "Chinese aggression" in Pacific

The United States is pushing back on what it calls “Chinese aggression” in the Pacific with new infrastructure to accommodate fast-response vessels.

The new American Samoan infrastructure is planned to host one of the most capable fast-response U.S. Coast Guard cutter vessels.

The move would allow the U.S. to expand its influence in the region and partner with island nations like Samoa.

Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien, National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, told reporters of the developments during a conference call on Saturday (Samoa Time).

Ambassador O’Brien greeted reporters on behalf of the President adding that Trump “deeply appreciates the contributions that the people of our western Pacific territories, especially American Samoans have made to our country.”

"The U.S. Coast Guard is currently conducting an up to $5 million study with the intention of basing one of its most capable modern fast response cutters in American Samoa," Ambassador O'Brien said.

"Its conditions of appropriations are favourable. We will make infrastructure investments in American Samoa to make this possible. Our new fast response cutter will enhance the Coast Guard’s footprint in the island and its ability to patrol, surveil and protect as well as enforce U.S. laws."

Two additional response cutters will be based in Guam, the Ambassador said, so it will be "quite an expansion of our U.S. Coast Guard’s capability in the western Pacific."

"This capability will allow us to expand and the opportunity to partner with like-minded nations of the region such as Western Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea," said Ambassador O'Brien.

"The Coast Guard has a long history of helping Pacific island countries protect their economic rights and prevent violations of their sovereignty as well as engaging in search and rescue and other humanitarian and disaster relief.

"In an era of increased Chinese aggression this support has never been more important and having a cutter located in the heart of the South Pacific in American Samoa will benefit the entire region."

He said the Chinese Communist Party  is expanding its predatory and opaque financing and "we must protect our shared values, our communities and our security."

"This is especially true as the Chinese Communist Party expands its malign and predatory influence especially in the Western Pacific.  Increasingly, the Chinese Communist Party is expanding its predatory and opaque financing. It’s pushing non-viable and environmentally threatening infrastructure projects," said Ambassador O'Brien.

"It’s behaving aggressively at sea, building military outposts in the sovereign territory of other nations, encouraging its fishing fleet to trespass into other nations’ waters and harassing lawful commercial vessel activity."

China, he added, is dumping vast quantities of plastics and garbage into our oceans. 

"I know that’s affecting many of you in the islands. These actions directly threaten our collective security, our economic prosperity and our critical natural resources and wildlife. In fact, the People’s Republic of China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases," the Ambassador said.

"The good news is that President Trump is deeply committed to a free and open indo-Pacific region and it’s taken decisive action to counter [China's] aggression."

Ambassador O'Brien said he had the opportunity to speak with Governor Lolo. M. Moliga in American Samoa and Guam Governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero earlier in the week.

America, Ambassador O'Brien said, is a multicultural nation and that the country's strength comes from the diversity of its people and its cultures. 

"They come together to build an extraordinary nation and economy," said Ambassador O'Brien.

"We’re deeply grateful for the contributions of American Samoans and from people across the Pacific who have made America great.  I am from the West Coast of the United States in California and I have spent a lot of time in Utah and it’s great to have our Pacific islander friends and colleagues." 

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