Why skepticism -- not China -- may be the greatest threat to US Pacific strategy

Washington finds itself playing diplomatic catch-up as Beijing continues to deepen its influence across the Pacific. Case in point – Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s late August trip to Palau was clearly designed to signal his intent to shore up once vibrant U.S. alliances throughout the region. With visits by senior U.S. officials few and far between, Esper faced the formidable task of defending the administration’s interest as more than a momentary effort to compensate for years of neglect. On this front, Pacific Island leaders have every right to be skeptical, believing that the U.S. only rediscovered the region after its belated recognition of China’s successful outreach.

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