Hillary Clinton has declared the Pacific ''big enough for all of us'' and laid down a challenge for China and other countries to work together to help the tiny island nations of South Pacific.
In a much-awaited trip, widely seen as an attempt to curb Beijing's growing influence in the region, the US Secretary of State said her country was happy to work with China as well as Japan and European countries on foreign aid.
''The United States knows this region is strategically and economically vital and becoming more so,'' she told a gathering of regional leaders.
''We all have important contributions and stakes in this region's success, to advance your security, your opportunity and your prosperity. I think, after all, the Pacific is big enough for all of us.''
With a Chinese vice-minister also attending the talks that followed the 15-member Pacific Islands Forum this week in Cook Islands, Mrs Clinton again made plain a desire to make this ''America's Pacific century''.
She pointed to the hundreds of US warships, coast guard and fishing vessels sailing Pacific waters and $330 million annual support to island nations, and invoked the wartime sacrifice of American troops battling the Japanese.
''We have since then underwritten the security that has made it possible for the people of this region to trade and travel freely,'' she said.
''We have consistently protected the Pacific sea lanes through which a great deal of the world's commerce travels and now we look to the Pacific nations in a spirit of partnership.''
Forum officials would not allow reporters to hear the contribution by China's vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, despite being allowed to hear speeches from Canada and Japan. Earlier Mr Cui said China did not seek to compete with any countries in the region.
''We are here in this region not to seek any particular influence, still less dominance,'' he said. ''We are here to work with the island countries to achieve sustainable development because both China and the Pacific island countries belong to the ranks of developing countries.''