As China and the United States compete for influence in the Pacific, a Chinese military-run hospital ship has docked for the first time in Kiribati.
As the first Chinese navy ship to visit Kiribati, the 14,300 metric ton “Peace Ark” signals an expansion of Chinese soft power in the Pacific Island nation, which in 2019 transferred its official allegiance from Taiwan to China.
The ship docked at Kiribati on Saturday to start a seven-day visit that includes humanitarian medical assistance, the Chinese defence ministry said on its official WeChat account on Sunday.
While medical crew from the ship will see patients at the local hospital and other places, the Chinese commanding officer will meet with Kiribati leaders including the president, health minister, transport minister and police chief.
The ship is also due to visit Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.
China has been building ties in the Pacific in recent years to the consternation of the United States and allies Australia and New Zealand, who have long seen the region as their sphere of influence.