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The US secretary of state has warned leaders of Pacific countries about “threats to the rules-based international order” and “economic coercion”, in what appears to be a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence in the region.
Antony Blinken was addressing leaders and their delegates from 11 Pacific countries and territories including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Palau and Marshall Islands as part of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, which is held in Hawaii.
Blinken reiterated US support for Pacific island nations as they face the “shared challenges that we have to confront together”, including Covid-19 and the climate crisis.
But the main focus of his televised address was China’s growing influence in the region.
“Economic coercion across the region is on the rise. The US is all for more development and investment in the islands, but that investment should adhere to international standards for environmentally and socially sustainable development and should be pursued transparently, with public consultation,” he said. “And every country, no matter its size, should always be able to make choices without fear of retribution.”
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Portable microwave weapons capable of causing the mysterious spate of “Havana Syndrome” brain injuries in US diplomats and spies have been developed by several countries in recent years, according to leading American experts in the field.
A US company also made the prototype of such a weapon for the marine corps in 2004. The weapon, codenamed Medusa, was intended to be small enough to fit in a car, and cause a “temporarily incapacitating effect” but “with a low probability of fatality or permanent injury”.
There is no evidence that the research was taken beyond the prototype phase, and a report on that stage has been removed from a US navy website.
Scientists with knowledge of the project said that ethical considerations preventing human experimentation contributed to the project being shelved – but they said such consideration had not hindered US adversaries, including Russia, and possibly China.
“The state of that science has for the most part been, if not abandoned, pretty much left fallow in the United States – but it has not been fallow elsewhere,” said James Giordano, professor of neurology and ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center.
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