RAROTONGA, Cook Islands - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday pledged renewed American commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific, where tensions are rising between China and its smaller neighbors over territorial disputes and many nations face threats from climate change.
Speaking at a meeting of leaders of South Pacific island nations, Clinton said the United States would not abandon its long history of protecting maritime commerce in the region and serving as a counterbalance to domination by any particular world power.
But, she also stressed that the U.S. wants to cooperate with China in the vast Pacific and encouraged other countries to do the same.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, speaks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, left, and Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna, right, while posing for the family photo during the Pacific Island Forum Post-Forum Dialogue in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Friday.
"The Pacific is big enough for all of us," she told reporters at a news conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, whose country handles defense and foreign relations for the Cook Islands.
Yet she pointed out that China's interests in the region are not necessarily the same as others, a point she also made clear earlier this month on a trip to Africa when she contrasted U.S. goals for that continent as aimed at adding rather than extracting value. The comment was a veiled shot at China, which some complain is using its overseas investments to exploit resources at the expense of local populations.
"Here in the Pacific, we want to see China act in a fair and transparent way," Clinton said. "We want them to play a positive role in navigation and maritime security issues. We want to see them contribute to sustainable development for the people of the Pacific, to protect the precious environment, including the ocean and to pursue economic activity that will benefit the people."
Earlier, at the meeting, Clinton said the U.S. would remain a big player in the region and pointed to past accomplishments.
"We have underwritten the security that has made it possible for the people of this region to trade and travel freely," she said, noting nearly a century of American military presence in the Asia-Pacific.
"We have consistently protected the Pacific sea lanes through which a great deal of the world's commerce passes. And now we look to the Pacific nations in a spirit of partnership for your leadership on some of the most urgent and complex issues of our time."