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Chinese police work in Kiribati as Beijing expands Pacific security ties to counter US influence

Chinese police are working in the remote atoll nation of Kiribati, a Pacific Ocean neighbour of Hawaii, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database programme, Kiribati officials said.

Kiribati has not publicly announced the policing deal with China, which comes as Beijing renews a push to expand security ties in the Pacific Islands in an intensifying rivalry with the United States.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls one of the biggest exclusive economic zones in the world, covering more than 3.5 million square kilometres (1.35 million square miles) of the Pacific. It hosts a Japanese satellite tracking station.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner Eeri Aritiera said the Chinese police on the island work with local police, but there was no Chinese police station in Kiribati.

“The Chinese police delegation team work with the Kiribati Police Service – to assist on community policing programme and martial arts (tai chi) kung fu, and IT department assisting our crime database programme,” he said in an email.

China’s embassy in Kiribati did not respond to a request for comment on the role of its police. In a January social media post, the embassy named the leader of “the Chinese police station in Kiribati”.

Aritiera, who attended a December meeting between China’s public security minister Wang Xiaohong and several Pacific Islands police officials in Beijing, said Kiribati had requested China’s policing help in 2022.

Up to a dozen uniformed Chinese police arrived last year on a six-month rotation.

“They only provide the service that the Kiribati Police Service needs or request,” Aritiera said.

The Kiribati