The U.S, Japan, Australia and India will on Tuesday unveil a maritime initiative aimed at curbing illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific, a U.S official said, in the latest effort by the “Quad” to counter Chinese activity in the region.
President Joe Biden and the other Quad leaders — Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and newly elected Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese — will announce the initiative at a summit in Tokyo, according to the official, who alleged that China was responsible for 95 percent of the illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific.
The initiative will use satellite technology to connect existing surveillance centres in Singapore, India and the Pacific to create a tracking system for illegal fishing from the Indian Ocean and south-east Asia to the South Pacific, according to the official.
The system will allow the US and its partners to monitor illegal fishing even when fishing boats have turned off the transponders that are typically used to track maritime vessels.
“We’re going to provide a global capacity that will link the systems together to be able to track illegal shipping for the first time,” said the official.
“China has become the world’s largest perpetrator of illegal fishing,” said Charles Edel, Australia chair at CSIS, a think-tank. “They have drastically depleted global fish stocks and undermined traditional livelihoods of many countries, so any steps taken to track, identify and curb such activity would have environmental and security benefits for the region.”
The U.S sees the initiative as a part of a broader strategy to reduce the growing reliance on China by a number of small Pacific island nations.
“We’re just asking people in the region to remember that the US and our partners and allies have been the partner of choice on security and peace implementation since the end of World World Two,” said a US state department official, who added that Washington was “deepening our relationships with the region” to counter China.
He said the U.S would help on everything from education for girls to science and English-language education. It would also find ways to help them protect their marine resources and democratic institutions.
“America has tools, and collectively others do too, that can help them meet what it is they want,” the official said. “What most of them want is not a military base with the People’s Republic of China.”
The other official said the U.S was crafting a multi-faceted strategy that would range from more engagement to providing help on climate change, which is an existential threat for some Pacific Island nations.
He said the U.S, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, UK and France would soon launch an initiative called “Partners of Pacific” to help Pacific Island nations.
The official added that the US was also talking to Fiji about drawing it “more closely into the emerging economic architecture that the US is designing.” Biden is expected to announce today an “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” to enhance economic engagement with countries in Asia.
The new maritime initiative comes as the U.S and its allies worry that Beijing is negotiating a security pact with Kiribati.