WELLINGTON (CU)_Pacific Island nations recently failed to reach consensus over a regional trade and security pact proposed by China, during China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour in the region in late-May. During a virtual meeting hosted in Fiji, 10 Pacific Island nations which participated in the event deferred consideration of the agreement proposed by the Communist superpower, which focused on range of matters, from security to policing, fisheries and a free trade zone.
Over the recent months, China has been attempting to strengthen its security and economic influence across the Pacific, particularly with the signing of a security deal with the Solomon Islands, which sparked widespread criticism. This week, the leaders of New Zealand and Samoa commented on the matter, noting that Beijing’s attempt to set up a security pact with Pacific Island nations should be considered by a regional forum.
“The issues need to be considered in the broader context of what we have in place and what we want to do in terms of security provisions for the region,” Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said during a news conference in Wellington, alongside her New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Commenting on the region-wide deal proposed by China, PM Mata’afa said: “The decision was that the group of countries felt that the appropriate modality of consideration of these kinds of proposals need to be passed through the forum secretary.”
For her part, PM Ardern noted that the Pacific Islands Forum was where regional security agreements should be discussed “As a forum we will come together, we’ll discuss these issues, we’ll of course, hopefully build consensus,” the Kiwi leader said.
However, given that four members of the forum, namely, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru and Tuvalu, maintain strong diplomatic relations which Taiwan, consensus on the question of China is likely to remain a challenge. Regardless, leaders of the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum are scheduled to meet in Fiji in mid-July, for their first in-person meeting since 2019.