Defense Secretary Mark Esper was in Hawaii this week during a tour of the Pacific that includes trips to Guam and Palau. During his stop he spent time with sailors at sea as they trained during RIMPAC.
”Your presence out here in the Indo-Pacific is all about making sure we compete with China and … if necessary, that you can fight and beat them anytime, anywhere,” Esper told sailors aboard the USS Essex as he observed training.
This summer the election of a controversial pro-Bejing president in Kiribati and the island nation’s admission into China’s “New Silk Road” has increased concerns among some military analysts that Chinese plans for Kirabati’s island of Kiritmati — sometimes known as Christmas Island — could include stationing Chinese navy ships and warplanes, putting them within closer reach of Hawaii.
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Kevin Knodell covers the military and veterans in Hawaii and the greater Pacific for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.