Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says respect for their sovereignty was likely among the reasons why Pacific leaders accepted an offer of partnership from the US, after earlier shelving China’s.
Last week, Cook Islands was among the 14 Pacific Island states that endorsed the historic joint declaration with the US, in an attempt by Washington to counter China’s increasing influence in the region.
In May, China attempted to push through its own sweeping regional economic and security deal during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s marathon tour of the region, but was unsuccessful.
The 11-point pact signed with the US includes commitments to address climate change, advance economic growth, improve peace and security, and bolster Pacific regionalism.
It had been intensely negotiated and also got the backing of Solomon Islands, which had initially refused to get on board.
He also noted that the statement was backed up by a “significant package” of resourcing and funds.
Prior to unveiling the declaration, US President Joe Biden’s administration announced it was ploughing more than $US810 million ($1.25 billion) into a slew of new programs across the region.