The US, Australia and Japan To Fund Pacific Undersea Cable Project To Counter Rising Chinese Influence
To increase internet access in 3 Pacific countries—Nauru, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia, the US, Australia and Japan have announced that they will jointly fund the building of an undersea cable.
The project is said to benefit approximately 100,000 people across three countries with improved connectivity and availability to digital technologies that could have considerable economic and social benefits.
As the Western allies aim to counter expanding Chinese influence in the Pacific region, the United States, Australia and Japan have announced that they will jointly fund the building of an undersea cable to increase internet access in 3 Pacific countries—Nauru, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
In a joint statement, they said: “The proposed undersea cable will provide faster, higher quality, and more reliable and secure communications to approximately 100,000 people across three countries. This will support increased economic growth, drive development opportunities, and help to improve living standards as the region recovers from the severe impacts of Covid-19.”
Even though the project's cost has yet to be determined by the three allies, according to the statement, the new cable will link Kosrae (FSM), Nauru, and Tarawa (Kiribati) to the existing HANTRU-1 cable in Pohnpei (FSM), allowing for the first-time internet connectivity via a submarine cable.
The United States, Australia and Japan also said in the statement that improved connectivity and availability to digital technologies could have considerable economic and social benefits, and they are essential for long-term development. They also aid in the expansion of digital government services, particularly in education and health, and improve access to services, information, and trade, as well as job prospects for businesses and individuals.
“This six-country collaboration highlights our commitment to work together on critical telecommunications infrastructure and contribute to reliable and secure internet for the region,” the statement noted.
Additionally, it said: “We will continue to coordinate closely with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to ensure this project complements investments by these institutions to enhance digital connectivity in FSM, Kiribati and Nauru.”
The development of the undersea cable is the most recent financial commitment from Western allies in the Pacific's telecommunications sector. The United States and its Indo-Pacific allies are concerned that cables built by China could jeopardise regional security. But Beijing has rejected any plans to use commercial fibre-optic cables for espionage, despite the fact that they have significantly larger data capacity than satellites.
In the statement, these three countries said that it is more than infrastructure investment. According to them, “It represents an enduring partnership to deliver practical and meaningful solutions at a time of unprecedented economic and strategic challenges in our region.”
The statement also noted that “It is a further demonstration of our shared commitment to quality, transparent, fiscally sustainable, catalytic infrastructure partnerships with, and between, Pacific nations.”
“These partnerships meet genuine needs, respect the sovereignty and complement the Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership and the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative. Trilateral partners will continue to work together to promote an open, inclusive and resilient region,” it concluded.
However, in the case of such infrastructure investment, in 2017, Australia invested over 137 million Australian dollars ($98.2 million) to improve internet connection in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
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