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Ernst Works to Increase Cooperation with Pacific Island Nations to Counter China’s Malign Influence

Strengthens Partnership to Prevent Chinese Espionage, Expose CCP Corruption, and Position U.S. in Pacific

WASHINGTON – Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) work to significantly increase coordination with our key partners in the Pacific to counter China has been included in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024.

Pacific island nations in the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) agreements with the U.S. – the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia – have become increasingly important to U.S. national security as China has stepped up their aggression in the region. For example, China recently strengthened its official partnership with the Solomon Islands, a close neighbor of the COFA nations, and has increased its incursions into Palau’s waters. Under the COFA agreements, the U.S.has committed to the defense of these nations in return for sole and expansive military access and a substantial amount of military and veto power.

Currently, there is limited coordination between the U.S. and the COFA nations to counter Chinese malign influence, curb Chinese purchases of land around U.S. installations on the islands, or prevent China’s infiltration and monitoring of U.S. activity throughout the island nations.

“China’s aggressive activity throughout the Indo-Pacific necessitates U.S. action. The strategic location of these islands is integral to our national security, but the lack of direct security channels between our nations creates risk. Through increased coordination, my bipartisan effort will strengthen cooperation and help counter and expose Chinese coercion,” said Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Before America’s security interests in the region are further threatened or a crisis arises in the Pacific, we must ensure our relationship with these islands is not corrupted by the CCP.”

To increase coordination, strengthen the COFA agreements, and support the Pentagon’s operational security, Ernst’s Connecting Oceania’s Nations with Vanguard Exercises and National Empowerment(CONVENE) Act will:

  • Identify and support the establishment of National Security Councils to coordinate with the U.S. to counter malign influence, 
  • Enable increased coordination with the COFA nations on emergency humanitarian response, law enforcement and maritime security activities, counterintelligence, and more,
  • Prevent Chinese espionage monitoring of U.S. activity by requiring and supporting the use of Department of Defense-approved technical equipment, and, 
  • Support further integration between U.S. national security agencies and representatives of the COFA nations.