2022 – China hosts Pacific islands meetings in Fiji, Reuters focuses on security relations

© Reuters. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photo before meeting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome on October 31, 2021. Tiziana Fabi/Paul via Reuters/File Photo

(Reuters) – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his counterparts from 10 Pacific island nations in Fiji on Monday, midway through a diplomatic tour in the region, as China’s ambitions for broader security ties raised concerns among U.S. allies.

Pacific island nations that have diplomatic relations with China are taking part in the meeting hosted by Wang, who earlier met Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

In a written address to the meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China will always remain a good friend of Pacific island nations no matter how the international situation changes, China’s state-run CCTV channel reported.

The draft statement and five-year action plan that China sent to the invited countries including Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Niue and Vanuatu before the meeting showed that China pursues large-scale regional trade and security. an agreement.

But the draft statement, first reported by Reuters, drew opposition from at least one of the invited countries, the Federated States of Micronesia, according to a letter leaked last week.

Pacific tour

An official from a Pacific country told Reuters that several invited countries wanted to postpone or modify the procedure on the draft statement.

With borders across the region closed due to the COVID pandemic, most foreign ministers are attending the Fiji meeting via video link. In many Pacific countries, the Secretary of State is also the Prime Minister.

Some Pacific islands have signed on to some of the individual security components that China aims for in the regional deal in recent days, according to data from governments and China.

Samoa said in a statement that an agreement had been reached in Samoa to establish a police fingerprint laboratory to complement the China-funded police training academy.

But a Kiribati official told Reuters he was not interested in a security deal and wanted to focus on economic ties.

Wang will travel to the South Pacific kingdom of Tonga on Tuesday for a two-day visit.

The United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand have expressed concern about the security agreement the Solomon Islands signed with China last month, saying it has regional repercussions and could lead to a Chinese military presence near Australia.

The new Australian government headed by Anthony Albanese has made the Pacific islands an early foreign policy priority to counter Beijing’s push, sending the foreign minister to Fiji with a message that Australia will give new priority to the region’s biggest security challenge, climate change, and announced it. New visa program to allow Pacific Islanders to immigrate.

Last week in Honiara, Wang condemned interference with the deal, saying the Solomon Islands’ relationship with China is a model for other Pacific island nations.