Report – By Calida Smylie on Rarotonga
After much hype and speculation about whether US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would attend the Forum, she finally arrived in Rarotonga last night and was engaged in talks with the Pacific today.
Clinton flew in last night just before 11pm on her personal jet, one of four government C-32s, or a Boeing 757 fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks enabling it to fly about three hours longer than a regular 757.
She had breakfast today with other leaders at Trader Jack’s and afterwards attended the 24th post-forum dialogue partner’s meeting at the National Auditorium.
The two superpowers seem to be battling for supremacy within the region, with the Obama administration stepping up its involvement across the Pacific to offset China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence.
Global media are watching the struggle with interest.
AFP reported that Clinton was heading to Rarotonga to “renew clout” within the region, while the Los Angeles Times reported that China’s media were criticising Clinton’s visit as inappropriate – “complaining that American saber-rattling is disturbing a tranquil region”.
The Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, believes the Pacific does not need security but investment and technology – something the US cannot offer them because of its financial woes, the article said.
Clinton will attend various other engagements around the island today.
She will also be addressing gender equality issues and US cooperation initiatives in the Pacific, and is intending to sign a trilateral agreement between the US, New Zealand and Australia.
Foreign Affairs protocol director Kaka Ama gave some advice to locals should they bump into Clinton at the Saturday morning markets.
“Although it is unlikely you’ll be able to waltz up to her because she’ll be surrounded by security, she is apparently a very approachable lady and you should treat her just like other leaders,” he said.
“Just be yourselves, be friendly, and show her the true Cook Islands spirit.”
Calida Smylie is a reporter with the Cook Islands News.