In French Polynesia, Macron tackles virus, China’s ambitions

Jul 24, 2021, 11:43 PM | Updated: 11:51 pm

PAPEETE, French Polynesia (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron is visiting French Polynesia to showcase France’s commitment to the region amid concerns about the impact of climate change on the Pacific island territory, the legacy of French nuclear testing on its atolls — and most of all, growing Chinese dominance in the region.

He started his trip Saturday night in Tahiti with a visit to a hospital and an appeal to get vaccinated against the virus. With the world’s eyes on the Tokyo Olympics, Macron will also discuss Tahiti’s role as host of Olympic surfing competition for the 2024 Paris Games.

The trip is aimed at reinforcing France’s geopolitical presence in the Pacific. Macron was greeted with an ‘orero, a traditional declaration by a respected storyteller, as he arrived in Tahiti’s main city Papeete — 12 time zones away from Paris.

He may also face protests. Local activists held two demonstrations this month over long-standing demands for compensation, and an apology, over the underground and atmospheric nuclear tests carried out from 1966-1996. A Polynesian collective angry over French government plans to require health passes at restaurants and other venues also has threatened unspecified action.

Over four days, Macron will visit four sites spread out across an ocean territory that’s as large as Europe.

With a multi-ethnic population of about 300,000, the former French colony is made up of five archipelagos with a total of 118 islands. Since 2004, it has autonomous status, defined as “an overseas country within the republic” which “is governed freely and democratically, by its representatives.”

But Macron is still its head of state, and the long-awaited visit is part of what his office calls his “Tour de France” aimed at reaffirming “our proximity to overseas territories.”

For historian Jean-Marc Regnault of the University of French Polynesia, this trip is linked to France’s determination to show its power in the Indo-Pacific, and its “long-term resource objectives.”

The 4.8 million-square-kilometer (1.85 million-square-mile) Exclusive Economic Zone of French Polynesia has significant fishing and mineral resources, and authorities are seeking U.N. permission to extend the territory’s continental shelf.

France is trying to “strike back at obvious Chinese lust” for Pacific resources, said Regnault, who wrote a recent book called “The Indo-Pacific and the New Silk Roads.”

He pointed to a French military operation in the region last month, when Rafale warplanes and other military jets zipped from Europe to French Polynesia in a show of strength.

China is the biggest trading partner for its Asian-Pacific neighbors, who are eager to profit from its appetite for industrial components and iron ore, timber, oil and food. But they are uneasy about Beijing’s use of access to its markets to push for political concessions. France, the United States, Japan and other governments worry China is seeking to gain influence in their strategic spheres.

Macron also plans to discuss climate concerns, and visit a port to celebrate a local fishing industry that’s seen as a model of sustainability.

Macron won’t be able to avoid the nuclear issue, though he’s not expected to make any new promises during the visit.

He ordered high-level meetings earlier this month on the issue in an operation called Reko Tika, which means “truth and justice” in the paumotu language. But the Polynesian delegation reported minimal progress on their demands, including declassifying government archives and facilitated compensation over the health and environmental damage from the tests.

___

Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, ...
Associated Press

Puerto Ricans await aid, fret about post-hurricane recovery

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico (AP) — City worker Carmen Medina walked purposefully through the working-class community of Tranquility Village under a brutal sun, with clipboard, survey forms and pen in hand — part of a small army of officials trying to gauge the scope of disaster caused by Hurricane Fiona’s strike on Puerto Rico. She […]
11 hours ago
Models wear creations as part of the Benetton women's Spring Summer 2023 collection presented in Mi...
Associated Press

Benetton, Ferrari close Milan Fashion Week with bold moves

MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week closed Sunday after five days of mostly womenswear previews that celebrated diversity and renewal, with more designers of color represented than ever and a host of new talent making their debuts at major fashion houses. The Italian fashion council was also putting the spotlight on sustainability with the return […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

‘Eco-warrior” and Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman dies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Dave Foreman, a self-proclaimed eco-warrior who was a prominent member of the radical environmentalism movement and a co-founder of Earth First!, has died. He was 74. The New Mexico-based Rewilding Institute, which Foreman founded as a think tank to develop long-term land conservation plans, said on its website that he died […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Heavy crane topples onto downtown Oklahoma City building

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 60-ton crane being used to remove a video display board from a downtown Oklahoma City building toppled onto the building that houses several news offices, officials said. The crane’s operator suffered minor injuries in the Saturday afternoon accident. Two other men working in the bucket of a small crane and […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

San Diego County to pay $1.35M over 2018 in-custody death

SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County and other defendants have agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the mother of a Mexican citizen who died after sheriff’s deputies arrested him in 2018, officials said. The lawsuit filed by Dolores Rosales, of Tijuana, alleged deputies used excessive force when they took […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Swiss voters OK plan to raise retirement age for women to 65

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly backed a proposal to raise the retirement age for women from 64 to 65, public broadcaster SRF reported. A separate proposal to impose stricter animal welfare rules for livestock was heading for a big defeat, SRF also reported. The change means the Swiss pension system would require […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
In French Polynesia, Macron tackles virus, China’s ambitions