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The Pacific island states have never been at the center of geopolitical discussion. The names of the 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) — nations such as Fiji, Kiribati, Palau and Samoa — may evoke a romanticized image of a remote paradise in the Pacific, but certainly not as a point of strategic importance.

Not anymore. Pacific island countries have become front and center in the geopolitical arena among the major democracies in the Asia-Pacific — the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan — as China steps up its geopolitical chess game in its quest for regional primacy.

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