Like most people, you probably missed the recent news that Palau has invited the United States to build a military base there.
Chances are you have no clue where Palau is, and you also likely have no clue why the announcement is news.
Here’s the simple answer: Palau has chosen to side with the U.S., and not China, as it seeks long term safety.
Mind you, neither the U.S. nor China has any designs on invading Palau; if either nation did, it would make mince meat of the land and its roughly 18,000 residents in mere hours. However, Washington and Beijing know Palau is one of the many island nations in the Pacific that could define the 21st century military relationship between the world’s two superpowers.
The U.S. eyes locations like Palau as opportunities to limit any hopes China might have of expanding its military reach. China sees islands like Palau as necessary to ensure something akin to parity with the U.S. in the region. Put more bluntly, Washington doesn’t trust Beijing, and Beijing doesn’t trust Washington; as a result, a military game of chess plays out in locations that are mere dots on a world map.
By itself, the decision by the Palau government means little. However, much like the game of dominoes, once one falls, the pressure increases on the others to withstand the tide working against it.