‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’ initiative rolled out . . .
On Friday, the U.S., Japan, Australia, the U.K., and New Zealand established a new grouping to strengthen relations and boost diplomatic presence with Pacific Island countries. The initiative, dubbed ‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’ (PBP), plans to assist Pacific Island countries in addressing regional concerns, such as climate change and illegal fishing. It will also foster closer ties with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the top regional engagement body, and with individual Pacific Island governments. The initiative represents more significant efforts to counter China's influence, especially after Beijing concluded a security pact in April with Solomon Islands.
Support for PIF-led regional resilience . . .
Aside from highlighting the PIF's centrality to regional diplomacy, partner countries in the PBP have also vowed to support the Fiji-based forum’s programs, mainly the forthcoming 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Through the Strategy, the PIF's 18 members plan to collaborate to foster sustainable and long-term economic development and climate action and build regional resilience to geopolitical challenges. The Strategy will be launched at the 51st PIF Leaders Meeting next month. China and the U.S., despite being dialogue partners, will likely be excluded from this crucial meeting to secure a safe space to discuss and resolve fraught issues without the "distraction" of great powers competing for influence.
Barging in and ruffling feathers . . .
In ambitiously trying to insert itself into the Pacific's highest-level diplomatic event, China has committed a possible diplomatic faux pas. Beijing has pushed for a meeting with 10 Pacific Island foreign ministers on the same day the leaders convene in Fiji for the first in-person PIF meeting since 2020. While China is unlikely to get such a meeting, the poorly timed invitation could be interpreted as Beijing's attempt to sideline the PIF and disrupt dialogue among Pacific Island countries while pushing its own economic and security agenda. Last month, China's top diplomat failed to convince regional representatives to sign a China-Pacific Island country economic and security pact. It will be crucial for Canada to consider developments coming out of the PIF leaders' meeting to inform its forthcoming Indo-Pacific Strategy.
- ABC News Australia: China pushes for Pacific foreign ministers meeting at same time Pacific Island Forum meets
- ABC News Australia: United States and China set to be excluded from Pacific Island Forum meeting to avoid ‘distraction’
- South China Morning Post: US, Japan and allies form new Pacific group to blunt China’s influence