Google, supported by the U.S. and Australia, will lay underwater cables to provide internet to eight Pacific island nations.
This news is set to be formally announced during the White House visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, according to a U.S. official who revealed this information to Reuters.
This project extends Google’s ongoing work in the area to countries including Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Both the U.S. and Australia are funding this initiative. Australia is contributing $50 million, while the U.S. is adding $15 million, according to a senior administration official.
Recently, there’s been a lot of focus on the Pacific nations, with both China and the U.S. aiming to build stronger ties through infrastructure projects and military alliances.
President Joe Biden is pushing for a strong U.S. presence in telecommunications, seeing it as key for national security due to its role in controlling information globally.
Google is also working on a cable to connect Taiwan, claimed by China, with the Philippines and the U.S.
With this Pacific Islands project, the U.S. aims to help these countries improve their cybersecurity, helping them back up important information on global cloud networks, the official said.
Engagements During Prime Minister Albanese’s U.S. Visit
Ahead of the visit, a preview via a press briefing was coordinated. The briefing emphasized the strong friendship between the U.S. and Australia.
During his visit, Prime Minister Albanese and Ms. Jodie Haydon will be honored at the White House by President Biden and the First Lady. This event celebrates the long history of cooperation between the two countries in supporting democracy, human rights, and legal principles.
The visit will feature many important events, like an official welcome ceremony, bilateral meetings, a press conference, and a state dinner. Additionally, a state luncheon on Thursday, led by the Vice President and the Secretary of State, will mark the end of Prime Minister Albanese’s trip to Washington.
Expected discussions include a deep dive into new technology partnerships, especially in artificial intelligence and space. They will also discuss ways to promote clean energy and secure supply chains for critical minerals. Defense cooperation, the AUKUS partnership, and potentially working together with Japan are also on the agenda.
They are also expected to discuss military cooperation regarding Chinese military operations in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Indeed, Albanese is looking to improve Australia’s relations with China, and announced on Sunday that he’ll meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in November. This is notable as he’ll be the first Australian prime minister to visit China in seven years, showing the past tensions over trade and security.
According to AP News, “it’s in Australia’s interest to have good relations with China,” Albanese told reporters.
This meeting between Albanese and Xi is scheduled just before a possible meeting between Biden and Xi at a gathering of Asian leaders in San Francisco. However, it’s still unclear if Xi will attend the yearly Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Later this week, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will head to Washington to meet with key U.S. officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.