Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and representatives from 10 Pacific Island nations failed to reach a consensus concerning a security and trade deal posed by Yi amongst fears that it would “threaten regional stability”.
These talks precede a virtual meeting held on Monday by Yi, who has offered China’s assistance in development for these countries. Despite their assistance with countries spanning Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, the new clients remain unconvinced.
Yi, who flew out to Fiji to hold these talks, was quick to reassure the success of these nations, stating: “Don’t be too anxious and don’t be too nervous because the common development and prosperity of China and all the other developing countries would only mean great harmony, greater justice and greater progress of the whole world.”
These talks were all part of China’s plan to extend their reach into the South Pacific in regards to the economy, politics and security of the region.
These plans, outlined in a draft sent to the participating nations at the meet, included a five-year plan to train local police forces and assist in cybersecurity developments amongst other perks, in exchange for increased access to natural resources within the nations’ borders.
The attending nations apparently remain unconvinced, however. A bizarre conference held by the Yi and the Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama following the talks culminated in a half-hour lecture being promptly leaving the stage, seemingly turning a blind eye to any imminent questions the press could pose.
Before his swift exit, Bainimarama had this to say: “As always, we put consensus first among our countries throughout any discussion on new regional agreements. Geopolitical point-scoring means less than little to anyone whose community is slipping beneath the rising seas, whose job is being lost to the pandemic, or whose family is impacted by the rapid rise in the price of commodities.”
The meeting in Fiji included nations such as Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu; according to Yi, the China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision had been agreed upon for five areas of cooperation, but further work would be needed before a complete deal could be reached. The agreed areas were a financial recovery scheme in the wake of Covid-19 and new centres for agriculture and disaster but other sections of the deal, including security, a free trade area and actionable support for climate change and health, were not divulged by Yi.
One of the invited nations condemned the deal: David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) claimed that it was “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes”, and that it “threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best and a World War at worst.”
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Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio
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