President Emmanuel Macron has reaffirmed France's commitment to French Polynesia as China's influence in the region continues to increase.
Macron is expected this week to discuss climate change and the legacy of France's nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Macron arrived in Tahiti for a four-day visit Saturday. He visited a hospital on the biggest island, where he encouraged people to get vaccinated. The trip is aimed at reinforcing France's presence in the Pacific.
Macron was greeted with an "Orero," a traditional greeting by a respected storyteller, in Papeete. However, dozens took to the streets to protest. Activists had already held several demonstrations over the past month demanding France apologize and make compensation for nuclear tests in the islands between 1966 and 1996.
Analysts said Macron was unlikely to avoid the issue but most do not expect any new promises. Macron will discuss climate concerns during a visit to a local fishing port later this week.
French Polynesia, a former French colony, is now an overseas collectivity of France with Macron as its head of state. The country was granted autonomy in 2004, defined by France as an "overseas country within the republic."
Macron's visit is part of his "Tour de France," a series of trips aimed at reaffirming the nation's "proximity to its overseas territories." French Polynesia, with a multiethnic population of around 300,000 living on 118 islands, boasts significant fishing and mineral resources.
Jean-Marc Regnault, a historian at the University of French Polynesia, said Macron's trip was part of France's determination to show its power in the Pacific.
He said it was a show of force against "obvious China lust" for the country's resources. Regnault pointed to recent military exercises conducted by France last month as a way of discouraging China from imposing its influence.