Four more nations set to quit Pacific Islands Forum
Another four nations have signalled they will leave the Pacific Islands Forum, further weakening the top diplomatic grouping in a region where the United States and China are competing for influence.
“The Micronesian presidents jointly agreed to forthwith initiate the formal process of withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum respecting their national processes and will act swiftly like the republic of Palau,” they said in a draft joint communique obtained by AFP.
The 18-member forum is mostly made up of small island states along with Australia and New Zealand, and is a key element of the US allies’ diplomatic efforts in the region.
The communique was drawn up after Micronesian leaders held a virtual meeting Monday to discuss the widening split among the normally close-knit Pacific island nations.
It erupted last Thursday, when the Micronesian candidate to be the forum’s next secretary-general was rejected in favour of former Cook Islands premier Henry Puna.
The Micronesians argued it was their turn to fill the post under an informal arrangement that has stood for decades and claimed the snub showed the forum was biased towards members from the South Pacific.
A split in the forum’s ranks could provide an opening for China to boost its influence with the sparsely populated but strategically important Pacific island nations.
It also risks diluting the Pacific’s strong message to the rest of the globe on climate change.
Many of the region’s small island states face being inundated by rising seas and the forum has been a pioneer in raising the issue on the world stage and demanding meaningful action.