WASHINGTON - As the trade war with China reaches new levels, there’s a push in Congress to strengthen ties with smaller Pacific nations.

That’s the goal of U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s new Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus. KITV first reported about the group when Case founded it in July.

Case is a co-chair, and he’s still reaching out to new House members to join.

Their goal is to connect the two-dozen nations and U.S. territories, and build better relations in trade, security, and climate change.

 “China is very affirmatively trying to buy influence and create dependencies in this region,” Case said. “It’s critical to our overall strategic interests over the next couple of generations.”

Case leads the group with longtime Hawaii ally, Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, and two other House members.

Lawmakers return next week following the August recess.