2022 – Chinese Foreign Minister tells Pacific leaders ‘Don’t worry too much’ after RSA rejected Pacific Islands

Pacific nations refused to join a comprehensive regional economic and security agreement proposed by China after a crucial meeting between Pacific foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart on Monday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a marathon tour of the region, visiting eight countries in 10 days, a trip that security experts say represents a dramatic “acceleration” of China’s quest for influence in the region.

On Monday, he held a virtual summit with Pacific foreign ministers in Fiji to discuss the regional agreement. An official from a Pacific country told Reuters that several invited countries wanted to postpone or modify the procedure on the draft statement.

Wang urged the Pacific region not to be “too concerned” about his country’s goals after the meeting failed to agree on the agreement.

The agreement, which was leaked last week, covers everything from a free trade zone with the region to providing humanitarian and Covid-19 relief. It also outlines China’s vision of a much closer relationship with the Pacific, particularly on security issues, with China proposing to participate in police training, cybersecurity, sensitive ocean mapping, and improving access to natural resources.

After the meeting – which included Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Niue and Vanuatu – Wang said the countries agreed on five areas of cooperation, but more talks were needed to build more consensus to achieve them.

The five areas he listed included economic recovery from the Covid pandemic and new centers for agriculture and disasters, but no security.

“China will publish its position paper on our positions, proposals and proposals for cooperation with Pacific Island countries, and in the future we will continue to have continuous and in-depth discussions and consultations to achieve greater consensus on cooperation,” he told reporters. in Fiji. Questions were not allowed at the press conference.

Some have questioned China’s motives for its activities in the Pacific islands, Wang said, with his response that China also supports developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

“Don’t worry too much, don’t worry too much, because the common development and prosperity of China and all other developing countries will only mean greater harmony, greater justice and greater progress for the whole world,” he said.

At a press event after the meeting attended by Wang and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, China confirmed that the deal is pending for now.

China’s ambassador to Fiji said that while there was “general support” for the agreement among foreign ministers, it was ignored after some Pacific nations raised concerns.

Bainimarama also hinted at differences between some countries at the meeting, saying that the group is taking a “consensus first” approach. After the meeting, Wang said China will issue a position paper to build consensus and cooperation.

“It is up to the countries of the region to make decisions for the benefit of their people,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Monday evening.

“Pacific security is the responsibility of the Pacific family to which Australia belongs,” she said in a statement.

β€œAnd we want to help build a stronger Pacific family. Australia will always work with the Pacific family to address common security challenges, which is why we are increasing our support for maritime security in the Pacific and strengthening defense cooperation. We want to bring new energy and more resources to the Pacific.”

The rejection of the deal comes after Wang arrived in Fiji on Friday as part of a diplomatic tour in the region. He met with Bainimarama on Monday, a summit that the two leaders said was a success.

The two countries signed at least three agreements after the meeting, which Wang said will expand cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, civil aviation, education, law enforcement and emergency management.

Wang said Monday that China will help Pacific island countries “without political conditions.”

Bainimarama emphasized the importance of climate change in the Pacific, saying that Pacific nations are not concerned with “geopolitical spots” given the threats posed by climate change and the pandemic. He said he urged China to make stronger commitments on the climate crisis, which it does in dealing with all major economies.

The leak of the proposed regional agreement came just one month after the signing of a controversial bilateral security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, which sparked widespread concern across the West and prompted high-level diplomatic visits from Australia, New Zealand and the United States, all of whom were trying to stifle the government of urging Solomon not to sign it. .

The Solomon Islands was the first stop for Wang on his eight-nation tour last week before he heads to Kiribati and meets President Tanetti Mamau.

A Kiribati official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the couple discussed fisheries, education, health, trade opportunities and tourism, and that there was no sign of a security agreement between the two countries.

Samoa, which Wang visited on Saturday, signed a bilateral agreement with China promising “greater cooperation”. Details of the deal are not yet known.

The Samoan government confirmed in a press release on Saturday that Wang and Samoan Prime Minister Fiamie Naomi Matava met and discussed “climate change, the pandemic, and peace and security.”

Local media was invited to attend the signing of the contract, but no questions were asked.

Samoa Publication said that China will continue to support various sectors of Samoa in infrastructure development and there will be a new framework for future projects “to be established and mutually agreed upon”.

After Fiji, Wang is scheduled to visit Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

In a duel for influence, Australia’s new foreign minister was in Fiji on Friday to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the region and to advance the new government’s more ambitious goals to cut emissions. Climate change, which poses a severe existential threat to the Pacific island states, has been a sore point in the relationship between the Pacific Ocean and Australia, which is seen as a nascent climate.

Fiji Prime Minister Wong praised Wong after the meeting, saying he had a “wonderful meeting” with Wong after she traveled to the country on her first foreign visit since she was sworn in.

Additional reporting by Daniel Hurst