Australia, Japan, U.S. to fund cable for Pacific island of Palau

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Pacific island of Palau will build an undersea telecoms cable financed by Australia, Japan and the United States in a $30-million project, Australia said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Department of State following the 30th AUSMIN in Washington, D.C. July 28, 2020. Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

It is the first project financed under an infrastructure investment partnership in the region among the three nations, foreign minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

“We are very pleased to work alongside Japan and the United States to support Palau’s vision to strengthen its global internet connectivity,” she added.

The cable will link Palau to a new cable spanning the Indo-Pacific region from Singapore to the west coast of the United States, the statement said.

Australia has stepped up engagement in the Pacific Island region amid concerns over rising Chinese influence, and the three nations’ infrastructure investment partnership is seen as offering an alternative to Chinese funding.

“Australia recently opened its first embassy in Palau,” Payne added, as part of its Pacific Step-Up programme.

Australia will contribute $10 million to the Palau cable project, including a $9-million construction loan.

It has committed A$1.44 billion (788 million pounds) in aid to the region in 2020-21, as well as A$2 billion through the infrastructure investment fund.

In 2018, Australia agreed to fund construction of the Coral Sea cable system for the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

That replaced an earlier deal the two nations had struck with China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] to lay a cable via Sydney, which Canberra feared could jeopardise its broadband network.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez