Cook Islands scramble to accommodate Clinton

A VISIT to the Cook Islands by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is proving a tall order for the diminutive nation’s resources.

A VISIT to the Cook Islands by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is proving a tall order for the diminutive nation’s resources.

Only 10,000 people inhabit the Pacific island group which is preparing for Mrs Clinton’s visit later this month. She would become the most important dignitary to arrive there since the Queen almost 40 years ago.

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However, hosting such a high-profile guest and her entourage is posing problems for a government that owns just three small people carriers and is scrambling to borrow cars from residents to create a motorcade.

Mrs Clinton is expected to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, an annual meeting of Pacific leaders that begins on 27 August on the main island of Rarotonga.

Sending such a high-level delegation would underline Washington’s so-called Pacific pivot, a policy shift in which it is placing emphasis on trade, humanitarian aid and military presence in the region as it seeks to capitalise upon and counterbalance the rise of many Pacific and Asian nations including China.

The US Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, declined to confirm whether Mrs Clinton would be part of its delegation, but Cook Island officials are preparing as if she is coming.