Ten days of diplomacy across Pacific region . . .
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has begun a 10-day diplomatic tour of eight Pacific Island countries. In addition to building bilateral ties, Wang is pursuing a wide-ranging economic and security deal with Pacific countries that Beijing hopes will be signed at the China-Pacific Island Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Fiji next week. The Pacific pact is modelled on the one agreed to by China and Solomon Islands earlier this year. Wang’s diplomatic tour began in Solomon Islands on Thursday and will include visits to East Timor, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.
Australia responds with its own diplomatic push . . .
In an effort to solidify bilateral and multilateral relationships and dissuade Pacific countries from signing the China deal, Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, jetted to Fiji to meet with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and to outline Australia’s commitment to priorities shared by Pacific countries in a speech at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. In that speech, she said Australia would make significant contributions to climate change initiatives in the Pacific, primarily through the Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership. This is Wong’s first solo international trip as foreign minister after being sworn into the role on Monday, shortly after the Australian Labor Party swept to victory in the country’s general election last weekend.
Deepening competition . . .
Media reports claim a draft of the China-Pacific Islands agreement proposes co-operation on a panoply of issues, including trade, investment, finance, police training, cybersecurity, public health and COVID-19, Chinese-language training, cultural exchanges, disaster prevention and relief, tourism, access to natural resources, and marine mapping. The U.S. and its allies Australia and New Zealand fear such an omnibus deal would alter the geopolitical balance in the Pacific by significantly increasing China’s influence and paving the way for Chinese military bases in the region, as many fear could happen under the China-Solomon Islands bilateral deal. Already there is resistance from the leader of at least one Pacific country. The President of the Federated States of Micronesia has urged Pacific leaders to reject China’s overtures, claiming they “threaten regional stability.”
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visiting multiple nations as Pacific push continues
- The Guardian: Deal proposed by China would dramatically expand security influence in Pacific
- Reuters: China seeks Pacific islands policing, security cooperation - document