High-level Meetings: US Diplomatic Tour of the Pacific
17 February 2022
Mickaël Forrest, the Minister in charge of monitoring New Caledonia's external relations in conjunction with the President of the Government, participated in a high-level meeting between leaders of Pacific Island States and the American Secretary of State Antony Blinken, currently on a tour of the region.
Mickaël Forrest represented the New Caledonian government at a videoconference with Pacific leaders held Saturday,12 February, in Nandi, at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, represented by Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
During his whirlwind visit to Fiji, Anthony Blinken wanted to talk with Pacific Islanders about a range of issues such as the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disaster relief and ways to strengthen the shared commitment to democracy, regional solidarity and prosperity in the "blue continent.
During these multilateral discussions, Mickaël Forrest first recalled the institutional context of New Caledonia. In particular, he reiterated the New Caledonian government's sincere support for the Kingdom of Tonga, which was severely affected by the January 15 tsunami. He also reaffirmed the New Caledonian government's commitment to contribute to the implementation of the major regional guidelines for combating the effects of climate change, managing marine resources and protecting the oceans and biodiversity in the Pacific region.
"We are facing a new war today - a climate war that is devastating our people like no other conflict before it. No part of the world, not in the Pacific, not in Europe, not in the Americas, will be spared its consequences," said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, noting that 14 cyclones have hit Fiji since the Paris Agreement was signed.
"New Caledonia is actively working to better regulate and reduce the carbon footprint of the mining industry, which is of particular interest to the automotive sector, as evidenced by the recent investment made by Tesla," said Mickaël Forrest, while stressing that it was important for industrialized countries to align themselves with the development priorities identified by island countries in order to ensure peace and prosperity in the region. He also emphasized New Caledonia's commitment to strengthening its bilateral and multilateral ties, including with the United States.
Secretary Blinken's tour of Australia and Fiji ended in Hawaii (see box). During his extensive trip, the Washington official sought to engage with all allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific axis. The U.S'. goal is to promote peace, resilience and economic expansion in the Pacific region by demonstrating the effectiveness of committed partnerships.
The US Builds Its Indo-Pacific Axis
Secretary of State Antony Blinken's February 7-14 tour of the Pacific region included meetings with numerous officials from the region and neighboring countries.
In Australia, February 9-12, Secretary Blinken attended the fourth Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, hosted by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, including Japan, Australia, India and the United States.
Secretary Blinken met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Payne, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other senior officials to discuss bilateral priorities and global affairs. In Melbourne, the U.S. Secretary of State also met with students, academics and various technology leaders.
During his whirlwind visit to Fiji on February 12, Anthony Blinken co-chaired a virtual meeting with Pacific Island leaders, including New Caledonia's Mickaël Forrest. In addition, he met with Fiji's Acting Prime Minister to discuss the bilateral engagement between the two States and ways to advance the Indo-Pacific axis. This was the first visit by a Secretary of State to Fiji since 1985.
That evening in Honolulu, Secretary Blinken hosted Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi and Chung Eui-yong, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, for a trilateral U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea ministerial meeting to, among other things, deepen cooperation in countering Chinese nuclear and missile threats. Anthony Blinken also met privately with the Korean Foreign Minister and Admiral John Aquilin, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).