Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue in the Cook Islands on August 31, 2012, as part of our intensive engagement and ongoing collaboration with the Pacific Islands. Secretary Clinton led the highest-level U.S. interagency delegation in the 41-year history of the Forum with senior officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Interior.
In remarks at the Dialogue, Secretary Clinton said, "...The Obama Administration has made a major push to increase our engagement across the Asia Pacific. This is a vast and dynamic region, a key driver of global economic and politics, and the United States has a historical presence in this region. That's why I have said that the 21st century will be America's Pacific century, with an emphasis on Pacific."
The Secretary's visit to the Cook Islands emphasized the depth and breadth of American engagement across economic, people-to-people, strategic, environmental, and security interests in the Pacific. During the visit, Secretary Clinton joined Admiral Samuel J. "Sam" Locklear III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Charles W. Ray to address U.S. peace and security partnerships in the Pacific. Secretary Clinton said:
"I know there are those who see America's renewed engagements over the last three and a half years in the Pacific perhaps as a hedge against particular countries. But the fact is, as I said this morning, the United States welcomes cooperation with a number of partners, including Japan, the European Union, China, and others. The Pacific is big enough for all of us. We share a common interest in advancing peace, security, and prosperity in this vital region."
Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States announced steps to strengthen aerial and surface maritime surveillance that supports the efforts of Pacific Island countries. Japan and the United States released a joint statement on aid coordination in the Pacific and reaffirmed their continued dedication to promoting stability, prosperity, and sustainable development in the entire region.
Secretary Clinton participated in an event on sustainable development and conservation in the region and announced two new programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Secretary Clinton said, "...the first [program will] target vulnerable coastal areas. We will provide $25 million over the next five years to help communities improve their infrastructure, enhance their ability to respond to natural disasters, and create long-term plans to adapt to climate change. The second program will help improve clean energy infrastructure across the Pacific Islands. We will provide training and education for technicians and engineers to install, maintain, and repair solar energy equipment."
Secretary Clinton also participated in the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality. The Secretary underscored the importance of women in the region. She said, "...When women are unequal participants, economic growth is undermined. Development is stymied. Communities and countries are robbed of the contributions that women could make."
The governments of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States launched the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women -- a collaborative initiative to build capacity, support emerging women leaders, and establish networks for sustainable leadership development in the region. While in the Cook Islands, Secretary Clinton held a trilateral meeting with Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully to promote broader cooperation in the Pacific.
Secretary Clinton also met with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. During a joint press availability with the Prime Minister, Secretary Clinton said, "As the first Secretary of State to make this journey, I am especially delighted and honored. I was pleased to meet with leaders of the Pacific Island Forum, member states, to attend the Pacific Island Forum, post-forum dialogue where I had a chance to reaffirm the Obama Administration's commitment to our engagement in the Asia Pacific with an equal emphasis on the Pacific part of that phrase. The United States is very proud to be a Pacific nation, a long history in this region, and we are committed to be here for the long run."
The visit represented a concerted effort to strengthen regional multilateral institutions, develop bilateral partnerships, and build on alliances -- three core elements of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific. You can read more about U.S. engagement in the Pacific here.