Pacific islands

The South Pacific Influence Challenge: Sage Dragon Game Report

By Shane Bilsborough

A report detailing the background, design, and findings of a two-day strategic wargame exploring various dimensions of the U.S.-China competition for influence among Pacific Island countries.

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It's been nearly a century since the last conflict in the Pacific, which involved almost all Pacific Island countries (PICs) including Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. Now, these PICs are once again in play as crucial terrain in a strategic competition, except this time it's between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on one side and the United States and Australia on the other.

Like Japan in the 1940s, China may be attempting to establish a forward defense perimeter by drawing a new “island chain” that complicates U.S. force flow into the area, isolating and threatening Australia.

U.S. and allied decision-makers must contend with a pronounced knowledge gap surrounding the local effectiveness of alternative national security instruments and how they might be perceived by diverse island nations’ populations. In November 2022, MITRE hosted a two-day strategic level game titled SAGE DRAGON to shed light on these overlapping challenges, explore the U.S.-China competition in the South Pacific region more generally, and how PICs might respond to the competition.

Download the Report