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Australia warns Pacific countries about China’s security proposal

Australia’s foreign minister used his visit to Fiji to urge Pacific nations to consider the “consequences” of accepting China’s security proposals.

Speaking on the second day of her visit, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia wanted to present itself as a reliable partner, as well as “determined to make up” for what she described as “a decade” lost on climate action”.

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Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Photo: The Guardian

According to the Guardian, Ms. Wong’s visit coincides with an eight-country tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This is seen as a sign of growing competition for influence in the region.

However, the Chinese embassy in Canberra on May 27 asserted that Beijing was not looking for a “zone of influence” and that it believed the South Pacific “should not be a battleground for geopolitical calculations”.

In a move that benefits the US, Fiji has become the first Pacific island nation to join a new Indo-Pacific economic initiative proposed by President Joe Biden. The White House hailed the decision, calling Fiji a “regional leader” that would offer “vital values ​​and perspectives” in addressing the climate crisis.

Australia’s foreign minister is scheduled to meet Fijian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Frank Bainimarama on the afternoon of May 27.

At a press conference after meeting with Pacific workers expected to travel to Australia, Ms. Wong was asked directly if the Australian Government was concerned about China’s influence in the region. Ms. Wong replied, Australia respects that Pacific nations decide for themselves who they want to work with and in what areas, but Australia wants to be the “partner of choice” and prove it is “a partner”. reliable work”.

“We have publicly expressed concern about the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China. The reason for that is that we think there will be consequences. We think it is important for the security of the Solomon Islands. the area is decided by the region and history has shown that’s a good thing,” emphasized Ms. Wong.

According to the Australian foreign minister, the new government in Canberra has outlined a set of policies, including stronger climate action and improved labor programmes, signaling “a desire to contribute to and build stronger relationship” in the Pacific.

In her speech to the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat in Suva on the evening of May 26, Ms Wong promised Australia would treat Pacific nations with respect, as “non-binding partners”. and will not impose an “unsustainable financial burden”.

The statement is said to highlight a tacit contrast with China, which is pursuing a far-reaching economic and security agreement with Pacific nations, to significantly expand Beijing’s influence and access to those countries.

However, the Chinese embassy in Canberra rejected the criticism from Australia, asserting that cooperation between the mainland and the Pacific island nations “brings real success and happiness to the people” of both sides. . According to the embassy, ​​Beijing has never interfered in the internal affairs of the island nations.

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