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Too Close for Comfort: Chinese Law Enforcement Caught Patrolling Island Near Hawaii

Chinese Police on Duty in Kiribati Near Hawaii, Concerning U.S.
Source: MEGA

A cannon abandoned by Japan's military during World War II on Kiribati.

Mar. 7 2024, Published 3:01 p.m. ET

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Recent developments in the Pacific Rim indicate China's expanding presence, with uniformed officers now stationed on an island south of Hawaii.

Police officers from Beijing are reportedly working with local law enforcement on Kiribati, an island nation located near the equator northeast of Samoa. Kiribati, with a population of approximately 115,000 people, lies approximately 1,300 miles from Honolulu.

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According to Kiribati's acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, Chinese officers have been involved in initiatives such as community policing and the establishment of a crime database program in partnership with local police forces.

However, the United States State Department has expressed its discontent with this development. A spokesperson from Washington D.C. informed Reuters recently that the importation of security forces from the People's Republic of China into any Pacific island country is not viewed favorably.

The spokesperson emphasized that such actions could potentially exacerbate regional and international tensions.

Chinese authorities have stated their intention to reconstruct an airstrip on Kanton Island, previously used by the U.S. military during World War II to combat Japan.

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Concerns have been raised regarding the implications of security agreements and cybersecurity cooperation with China on the autonomy of Pacific Island nations, according to the same Reuters report.

Despite these reservations, the U.S. Coast Guard has collaborated with Kiribati police, notably in February when they jointly inspected two suspicious Chinese fishing vessels, as reported by Newsweek.

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While the Beijing government has remained silent on the presence of its police officers, the appointment of a head of the "Chinese police station in Kiribati" was announced on social media in January.

This development is occurring amidst broader concerns about Chinese actions in the region, including recent incidents involving Chinese interference with private fishing operations in Taiwan and the Philippines.

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Western nations are apprehensive about any signs of creeping expansionism by China.

Kiribati, officially known as the Republic of Kiribati, hosts a range of international projects. Japan, for example, operates a satellite tracking station there. Furthermore, in October 2023, the U.S. announced plans to modernize a wharf on Kanton Island, one of the 32 islands comprising Kiribati.

Additionally, the U.S. intends to establish an embassy in Kiribati, a significant step given that no such diplomatic mission has been present since the country gained independence from Britain in 1979.

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