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China's influence in W. Hemisphere threatens US interests: State Dept. official

State Dept. official Michael Kozak says Beijing acts like 19th century imperial power in Latin America

Acting Asst. Sec. of  US State Dept. Bureau of W. Pacific Affairs, Michael Kozak (CNA photo)

Acting Asst. Sec. of US State Dept. Bureau of W. Pacific Affairs, Michael Kozak (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The acting assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Pacific Affairs, Michael Kozak, said on Wednesday (Oct. 23) spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and warned of China’s growing influence in Central and South America.

During a hearing on U.S. policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, Kozak remarked that China’s dept-trap diplomacy is a growing problem in the hemisphere. However, he suggested that national governments are starting to grow wise to the risks of making major infrastructure deals with Beijing.

In response to the growing awareness of China’s predatory lending in the region, China has adapted its tactics to target local governments at the provincial and municipal level, according to Kozak. The State Department official compared the policy China has adopted towards the region to that of imperialist powers in the 19th century, bribing locals with investments that are certain to result in irreparable financial problems and harmful entanglements in the future, reports CNA.

Given the potential threat China may pose to U.S. interests in the region, U.S. Congressman John Curtis urged lawmakers to pass the TAIPEI Act, which was recently placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. If it passes both the House and the Senate, then under the TAIPEI Act, the U.S. will boost engagement and material support for countries maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan and potentially downgrading ties with nations that take actions contrary to Taiwan or U.S. interests.