The United States is going to “double down” its military presence in Palau after two Pacific Island Countries (PICs) ditched their long-time ally Taipei for Beijing.

Major General John P. Johnson, in an interview, said that the recent switch of allegiance by the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to Beijing only means the US will need to increase its military presence in the Pacific region.

After commencing their big military presence in Palau in 2018, Johnson said the US is back in the region for “all the right reasons.”

He bared that the US is currently planning to send a series of military exercises next year, two of which will be part of their Pacific Pathway program.

The same company of soldiers that visited Palau last year will be back in 2020 for around a two-week military exercise. Another set of soldiers will also be sent here for a longer period as a tie-in with the Civic Action Team (CAT).

In September 2020, around 500 soldiers are also planned to be sent in Palau for a short military exercise.

Johnson also sent a warning to other nations, saying they need to be very careful about their choices and should be wary of “debt trap diplomacy.”

“We’re hopeful that countries like the Republic of Palau continues to stand tall. This is a phenomenal symbol of what being part of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is about,” Johnson said.

Johnson also hinted dismay over other countries who are “seeking quick gratification.”

Aside from climate change, Johnson also included China as among the threats that they are seeing in the region but he reiterated later in the interview that this should not be a choice between the US or China but a choice of being part of a much preferable environment that promotes freedom and openness rather than one that is “reflective of a society that is authoritarian and is one of control.”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, as quoted in various reports previously, had accused China of using financial and political pressure in an attempt to “suppress Taiwan’s international space.”

There are only 15 remaining countries that recognized Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

A civil war that lasted until 1949 made Taiwan established itself as a de facto sovereign nation but Beijing continues to see it as its breakaway province. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)