China mulls security pact at Pacific islands summit

SUVA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is meeting with leaders and senior officials from ten Pacific island states on Monday (May 30) in a regional diplomatic blitz that has raised serious concerns in the West.

The virtual summit is expected to discuss leaked proposals for China to radically increase its involvement in South Pacific security, economy and politics.

Wang is in the Fijian capital, Suva, where he will co-host a virtual meeting with regional foreign ministers – many of whom are also leaders of small island states.

On the table is a secret deal – secured by AFP – that would see China train local police, get involved in cybersecurity, expand political ties, carry out sensitive nautical mapping and gain better access to natural resources on land and in water.

As an inducement, Beijing is offering millions of dollars in financial aid, the prospect of a China-Pacific Islands free trade deal and access to China’s vast market of 1.4 billion people. .

Only Pacific countries that recognize China rather than Taiwan will attend today’s summit, including those Wang has already visited during his regional whistle – the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji.

The proposal comes as Beijing is jostling with Washington and its allies over influence in the strategically vital Pacific.

BALANCE

Analysts say the deal is unlikely to be unanimously approved by Pacific island leaders today.

A recent security deal between the Solomon Islands and China has caused deep unease in a region that is typically more concerned with climate change than superpower politics.

“The Solomon Islands came across as an outlier, there was no interest,” said Richard Herr, a University of Tasmania scholar with decades of Pacific island experience.

The region will be reluctant to “be drawn into geostrategic competition”, he said.

Beijing’s latest proposal has already been rebuffed, including by Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, who has warned other Pacific leaders that it could cause “the breakdown of peace, security and stability. regional”.

The president of Palau, a Pacific nation that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, told the ABC on Monday that the region “should be concerned” about the proposed deals.

Western powers have bristled at the deals, with the US State Department warning the Pacific to be wary of “dark and vague deals with little transparency” with China.

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