Competition between the United States and China is escalating in the Pacific, with both rushing to cement their influence.
They have reached out to Pacific nations, offering loans, security aid and development assistance. The stakes rose in April when the Solomon Islands signed a security accord with the Chinese government, Beijing’s first such deal in the region.
WHAT COUNTRIES MAKE UP THE PACIFIC?
The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and borders the US, Japan, Russia and Chile.
But the term Pacific nations usually refers to islands mostly found around or below the equator.
There are about 14 independent Pacific nations, all of which are relatively small. Only one, Papua New Guinea, has a population above one million while most are smaller than 25,900 sq km.
Larger ones include Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa and Kiribati. The combined gross domestic product of all Pacific independent nations is about the same as that of Vermont.