Chinese Activities in Kiribati

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National Security Situation: Chinese Activities in Kiribati

Date Originally Written: March 17, 2024

Date Originally Published: April 8, 2024

Author and / or Article Point of View: Kyle McCarter has served in the United States Army for over 20 years. He presently works as an operations officer and planner in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. The author is an active-duty U.S. Army Officer who believes in freedom of navigation, the importance of AUKUS (the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and perceives Chinese presence in Kiribati as a threat.

Background: The island nation of Kiribati, located in the central Pacific Ocean, has recently become a focal point of geopolitical competition. China's increasing activities in Kiribati, including infrastructure development, economic investments, and military presence, have raised concerns among the United States and its allies. Kiribati's strategic location makes it an essential outpost for power projection and maritime dominance in the Pacific region.

Significance: The national security situation in Kiribati holds significant implications for regional stability and global power dynamics. As China expands its influence in Kiribati, it threatens the longstanding security architecture led by the United States in the Indo-Pacific. The establishment of Chinese military facilities in Kiribati could disrupt vital sea lanes, endangering freedom of navigation and undermining the rules-based international order. Moreover, Kiribati's alignment with China could weaken the AUKUS alliance and exacerbate tensions between the United States and China.

Option #1: To address the Chinese activities in Kiribati, the United States could strengthen its diplomatic and economic engagement with Kiribati. This includes offering increased development assistance, promoting sustainable infrastructure projects, and fostering closer ties through bilateral agreements. By bolstering Kiribati's resilience and capacity to resist Chinese influence, the United States can mitigate the threat posed by China's presence in the region.

Risk: However, pursuing this option carries political risks, as it may strain relations with China and trigger retaliatory measures. China could respond by escalating its activities in Kiribati, deepening its economic entanglement with the island nation, and marginalizing U.S. influence. Moreover, increased U.S. involvement in Kiribati could fuel suspicions of neocolonialism and provoke domestic opposition within Kiribati, complicating efforts to counter Chinese influence effectively.

Gain: Despite the risks, Option #1 offers several potential gains. By fortifying Kiribati's ties with the United States and its allies, it can bolster regional security and preserve the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, enhanced cooperation with Kiribati can facilitate intelligence-sharing, maritime surveillance, and joint military exercises, strengthening the collective defense against common threats, including illegal fishing, transnational crime, and maritime disputes.

Option #2: Alternatively, the United States could pursue a multilateral approach to address Chinese activities in Kiribati. This involves rallying regional partners, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, to coordinate a unified response to China's expansionism in the Pacific. Through joint diplomatic initiatives, economic incentives, and security cooperation, the United States and its allies can exert collective pressure on Kiribati to resist Chinese overtures and uphold democratic values and transparency.

Risk: However, Option #2 carries the risk of diplomatic discord and strategic divergence among U.S. allies. Differences in geopolitical interests, economic priorities, and historical ties could undermine the effectiveness of multilateral efforts to counter Chinese influence in Kiribati. Moreover, China's economic leverage and strategic patience may undermine the resolve of regional partners, leading to fragmentation and discord within the coalition.

Gain: Despite the challenges, Option #2 offers the potential for greater strategic alignment and burden-sharing among U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific. By leveraging collective resources and capabilities, the United States and its partners can enhance their capacity to shape the security environment in Kiribati and uphold shared principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and international law. Additionally, a united front against Chinese expansionism can send a clear signal of deterrence and resilience, dissuading other vulnerable nations in the region from succumbing to Chinese coercion.

Other Comments: The national security situation in Kiribati underscores the complex interplay of economic, political, and strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific. As China seeks to expand its influence in the region, the United States and its allies must adapt their approaches to safeguard regional stability and uphold a free and open order. By engaging proactively with Kiribati and fostering cooperation among like-minded partners, the United States can effectively counter Chinese coercion and preserve its leadership role in the Indo-Pacific.

Recommendation: None.


The following prompt was given to ChatGPT 3.5 by Kyle McCarter:

Write a maximum 1,000 word article on a pressing US national security issue specific to the island nation of Kiribati using the following template: "National Security Situation: Chinese Activities in Kiribati.

Date Originally Written: Month, Day, Year.
Date Originally Published: Month, Day, Year.

Author and / or Article Point of View: Author is an active-duty U.S. Army Officer. Author believes in freedom of navigation, the importance of AUKUS, and that Chinese presence in Kiribati is a threat. And / or the article is written from the point of view of the United States towards China, Kiribati towards China, or the China towards the United States.

Background: A tightly worded description of the national security situation and the driving forces.

Significance: Why does this national security situation matter? What is the impact? To whom does the national security situation matter?

Option #1: Something that could be done to address one or more aspects of the national security situation.

* Risk: What is the risk to undertaking Option #1? Note: Risks can take a variety of forms. Here are some examples:
-- Political (e.g. ruin the AUKUS alliances or cause distrust in the international community against China)
-- People (e.g. military or civilian casualties)
-- Resources (e.g. economic collapse, protracted war, resource constraints)
-- Organizational (e.g. loss of focus on other regions of the globe)

* Gain: What is the gain to undertaking Option #1?

Option #2: Something different from Option #1 that could be done to address one or more aspects of the national security situation. Note: The focus is on being DIFFERENT from Option #1. When developing options, think differences–not variations on a theme.

* Risk: What is the risk to undertaking Option #2?

* Gain: What is the gain to undertaking Option #2?

Other Comments: Provide any other comments here that did not fit into the format above. If you have none type "None." Please keep this short as the majority of the 1,000 words or less content should be above this area.

Recommendation: None.