(Bloomberg) -- The US has warned Pacific nations against “importing” security forces from China to help with domestic law and order following reports that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, a small island chain southwest of Hawaii.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Australia said that while Washington respected the sovereign decisions of independent nations, they are concerned about the potential implications of security agreements with China on Pacific nations’ autonomy.

“We do not believe importing security forces from the PRC will help any country. Instead, doing so risks fueling regional and international tensions,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

Last week, Reuters reported uniformed Chinese police officers were working on the ground in Kiribati, a small country with a population of just over 130,000 people that’s about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) from the US state of Hawaii.

According to Reuters, while China has not announced an agreement with Kiribati, police officers are working with local authorities on community activities and a crime database. 

Beijing has been trying to expand its influence among Pacific nations for decades, but it was only after Beijing struck a security agreement with the Solomon Islands in 2022 that the US and its allies started to ramp up their own diplomatic outreach.

In the statement, the embassy spokesperson said the US had helped to “maintain peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region” since the end of World War II.

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