Chinese Foreign Minister to Meet Pacific Countries in Radical Regional Deal | Pacific Islands
China’s foreign minister will meet his Pacific counterparts on Monday in a crucial meeting where China is expected to encourage Pacific countries to sign a comprehensive regional economic and security agreement.
The meeting comes halfway through Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s marathon tour of the Pacific, visiting eight countries in 10 days, in a move that security experts say represents a “dramatic acceleration in the pace” of the China’s surge of influence in the region.
Wang arrived in Fiji’s capital Suva yesterday after visiting the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa and is due to meet the Fijian Prime Minister this morning.
He will then host the China-Pacific Virtual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which will be attended virtually by foreign ministers from across the region. Ministers representing all Pacific countries that diplomatically recognize China are expected to attend the call.
This is only the second time that the meeting of foreign ministers has been held, after the inaugural meeting last October.
At the meeting, the ministers are expected to discuss a draft region-wide security agreement. The deal, which was leaked last week, covers everything from a free trade zone with the region to the provision of humanitarian and Covid relief. It also lays out China’s vision for a much closer relationship with the Pacific, particularly on security issues, with China proposing that it be involved in police training, cybersecurity, sensitive nautical charting and l gaining better access to natural resources.
The leak of the proposed regional deal came just a month after the signing of a controversial bilateral security agreement signed by the Solomon Islands and China, which caused huge alarm across the West, prompting diplomatic visits from high level from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. who sought to urge the Solomon Islands government not to sign it.
The Solomon Islands was Wang’s first stop on his eight-country tour last week, before heading to Kiribati and meeting President Taneti Maamau.
A Kiribati official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the two men had discussed fisheries, education and health, as well as business and tourism opportunities, and that an agreement security between countries was not planned.
Samoa, which Wang visited on Saturday, signed a bilateral agreement with China promising “greater collaboration”, the details of which are unclear.
The Samoan government confirmed in a press release on Saturday that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa met and discussed “climate change, the pandemic and of peace and security”.
Local media were invited to witness the signing of an agreement, but no questions were asked.
The Samoan statement said China would continue to provide infrastructure development support to various Samoan sectors and that there would be a new framework for future projects “to be determined and mutually agreed”.
After Fiji, Wang is due to travel to Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
In a duel for influence, Australia’s new foreign minister, Penny Wong, was in Fiji on Friday, reaffirming Australia’s commitment to the region and promoting the new government’s more ambitious carbon reduction goals. emissions. Climate change, which is an acute existential threat to Pacific island nations, has been a point of tension in relations between the Pacific and Australia, which has been seen as a laggard on climate action.
Fiji’s prime minister praised Wong after the meeting, saying he had a “wonderful meeting” with Wong after he traveled to the country on his first solo overseas visit since his performance. oath.
“Fiji is no one’s backyard – we are part of a Pacific family,” Bainimarama later wrote on Twitter. “And our biggest concern isn’t geopolitics – it’s climate change.”