The Pacific islands are being geopolitically balanced while climate change threatens their very existence.
China’s and discussions between the ten Pacific island states failed to reach a broad agreement on security cooperation.
At the virtual summit, leaders and foreign ministers were scheduled to discuss proposals to significantly increase China’s involvement in security, the economy and politics in the region.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been visiting Suva, the capital of Fiji. During the visit, China suggested, among other things, that it could train police officers in island states, engage in cyber security cooperation, expand political cooperation, conduct surveys in maritime areas and at the same time gain access to natural resources both on land and at sea. In return, it offered millions of dollars in financial support as well as the opportunity for a free trade agreement that would provide access to China’s huge market.
Chinese state television CCTV told the president Xi Jinpingin sent a message before the meeting in which he promised China was a “good brother” in the region and said the countries had a “common destiny”.
China’s the companies did not work because leaders in some regions expressed concern about the proposals. In a letter to other regional leaders, the president of the FSM archipelago David Panuelo warned that the proposed agreement would be “dishonest” and would ensure China’s influence over the region’s governance and financial control over key industries.
After a meeting behind closed doors on Monday, China’s Wang did not refer directly to the proposed agreement, but said the parties would continue in-depth discussions and consultations to agree on cooperation. He promised China will publish its own statement, which will open the country’s proposals.
Wang said the countries have agreed on memoranda of understanding for China’s large-scale Belt and Road infrastructure project. The foreign minister tried to reassure those worried about China’s intentions by saying they didn’t have to be “too nervous”.
The Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama said after the meeting that the countries gave priority to consensus. According to him, new regional agreements will not be concluded until a broader agreement is reached.
West have opposed China’s efforts to expand its influence in the South Pacific. The United States has advised archipelago states to beware of vague agreements that are not transparent.
Australia has also stated that agreements to increase China’s influence would have consequences.
Many countries in the Pacific want to maintain friendly relations with China and balance their relations with China and the United States. At the same time, the islands are focusing on acute concerns such as the climate crisis and economic difficulties.
During the meeting, Bainimarama criticized those who focus on “geopolitical scoring”. This, he says, is irrelevant to those whose entire community is being submerged, who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, or whose families are being affected by rapidly rising prices.
Almost all Pacific islands are in a very vulnerable position when climate change causes sea levels to rise.
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