16 Mar 2007

US keen on broader engagement with Pacific island countries

4:51 pm on 16 March 2007

America's top diplomat for the Pacific says the U.S. views its ties with the region as crucial and wants to expand its engagement.

According to the Reuters news agency, the deputy assistant secretary of state, Glyn Davies, says the US government is seeking to expand its engagement and reverse any perception that the U.S. has withdrawn from the Pacific.

He was responding to complaints by the American Samoan delegate to the US Congress, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, who says Pacific leaders believe the U.S. doesn't care and has left it to Australia and New Zealand to take care of them.

Faleomavaega, who is the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the global environment, says the perception of the U.S's so-called benign neglect has coincided with rising Chinese influence in the resource-rich region.

Mr Davies has acknowledged that budget constraints had limited U.S. aid and diplomatic activities in the region in the 1990s, but he says Washington is bolstering its presence and wants to help countries in a region where several states have been affected by unrest.