Blinken kicks off Australia visit in push to boost Pacific influence

Sydney, Australia, Feb 9 (EFE).- The United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Australia on Wednesday to begin a tour of the Pacific, which also includes a stop in Fiji, as part of a strategy to boost US influence in the region and counter China.

During the next two days, Blinken is set to participate in meetings of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, a security bloc which consists of India, Australia, Japan and the United States and was originally established in 2007 but remained inactive until US President Joe Biden decided to revive it last year.

Talking to journalists during his flight, the secretary of state said that Quad had become a powerful mechanism in helping the vaccination drive against Covid-19 and to strengthen maritime security, and against the “aggression and coercion” in the Indo-Pacific region, a veiled reference to China.

Blinken framed the Quad meet within the White House’s general strategy to strengthen alliances across the world, as he also mentioned the NATO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The US top diplomat, who will also meet technology experts at the University of Melbourne during his Australia stay, will head to Fiji on Saturday in the first-ever visit by an American secretary of state to the Pacific nation in nearly four decades.

Blinken’s Pacific tour will conclude in the US territory of Hawaii, where he is set to meet his Japanese and South Korean counterparts and is expected to discuss the issue of North Korea, which has carried out several missile launches already this year.

Although the stated aim of the visit is to strengthen ties in the Pacific, Blinken acknowledged that the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to be his biggest concern, and said that he had talked to many of his counterparts during the journey to Australia, in order to coordinate against the “Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The diplomat said that in the coming days he expected to talk with his colleagues from France, Germany and the United Kingdom, among others. EFE


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