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A Biden special envoy will visit the Marshall Islands amid US concerns about China's plans in the Pacific

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One of the themes of the visit will be the remuneration for the 67 nuclear tests that the US carried out in the archipelago between 1946 and 1958, for which the islanders still suffer effects on their health and the environment.

Amid growing concerns from Washington for what it considers China’s efforts to expand its influence in the Pacific region, Joseph Yun, special envoy appointed in March by US President Joe Biden, will lead a delegation that will visit the Marshall Islands from June 14 to 16, according to a Reuters report.

A spokesman for the US State Department explained that Yun will hold talks on the Compact of Free Association (COFA, for its acronym in English) that governs the economic assistance of the North American country for the Republic of the Marshall Islands and that will expire next year.

Un avión australiano resulta averiado tras una "maniobra peligrosa" de un caza chino en el mar de la China Meridional

USA has similar agreements with the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, which expire in 2023 and 2024, respectively, and Yun will also be responsible for those negotiations.

One of the key issues for the Marshall Islands is remuneration for the 67 US nuclear tests made there between 1946 and 1958, for which the islanders still are affected by health and the environment. The presence of US military bases and climate change mitigation will also be discussed.

Talks to renew the COFA agreements with the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau began during the Trump administration, but languished before Yun’s appointment, raising concerns that Washington could lose its battle for influence in the region with Beijing.

“China has no intention of competing with anyone”

The Pacific Islands have become a key front in the US’s strategic competition The US with China, which has stepped up diplomatic efforts to woo countries in the region. Last week, Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed shared concerns about what they see as Beijing’s attempt to expand its influence in the Pacific.

For his part, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently stated that “China has no intention of competing with anyone, much less competing for geopolitical interests or creating a so-called ‘sphere of influence'”.

“Recently, some people attacked and discredited China’s cooperation with the South Pacific island countries, claiming that China will increase its military presence. That is a complete disinformation ,” said the official after meeting with his Tongan counterpart, Fekitamoeloa ʻUtoikamanu, on a tour of Oceania.

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