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China eyeing ‘security pact’ with Pacific Island nations, floats 5-year action plan, says report

Reuters report details China 'plans' for cooperation with Pacific Island nations in policing, security, and trade, among other areas, ahead of Wang Yi's tour of 8 island nations.

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New Delhi: China is seeking a comprehensive regional agreement with the Pacific Island nations ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s scheduled tour of eight island nations, according to a report by Reuters published Wednesday.

Wang Yi’s visit comes weeks after Beijing inked a security pact with Solomon Islands in the south Pacific — a move that was touted as a massive “failure” of the erstwhile Scott Morrison government in neighbouring Australia. The pact was also opposed by the US, Japan and New Zealand despite Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare insisting that it was necessary to counter the “internal security situation” prevailing in the country.

In addition to a draft document, titled ‘China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision’, Beijing, according to Reuters, has now floated a five-year action plan among the 10 Pacific Island nations ahead of Wang Yi’s 10-day visit from 26 May to 4 June.

While calling for cooperation in the fields of policing, security, trade, data networks and cyber security, the document, says the Reuters report, requests islands in the south Pacific to adopt a “balanced approach to technological progress, economic development and protection of national security”.

On the trade front, it proposes a China-Pacific Islands ‘Free Trade Area’.

David Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), has written to the heads of state of 21 Pacific Island nations with diplomatic ties with China, warning them that the proposal could reel them deeper into “Beijing’s orbit, intrinsically tying the whole of our economies and societies to them”.

“China will hold intermediate and high-level police training for Pacific Island Countries through bilateral and multilateral means,” reads the draft document floated by Beijing, according to Reuters. 

It further mentions China’s intent to provide forensic police laboratories and to hold “intermediate and high-level police training” for the Pacific Island nations through bilateral and multilateral means, adding that cooperation can be strengthened in the fields of “traditional and non-traditional security”.

The document also envisions a ministerial meeting to be held in 2022 between Chinese officials and their counterparts in the south Pacific Islands on law enforcement capacity and police cooperation.

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‘Beijing’s orbit’

The draft document proposed by China has not been received with open arms by all Pacific Island countries.

According to the Reuters report, FSM President David Panuelo wrote to the heads of state of 21 Pacific Island nations, asking them to reject the deal proposed by Beijing. Citing escalating tensions between China and the West over Taiwan, Panuelo said the deal could trigger a new “Cold War”.

The proposal has surfaced days ahead of the second China-Pacific Islands foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in Fiji on 30 May. The meeting will be chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who is set to arrive in the Solomon Islands on Thursday.

Upon his arrival in Honiara, Wang Yi will meet his counterpart, Jeremiah Manele, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern, according to a statement issued by the Solomon Islands government. The “highlight” of the visit will be the signing of more key bilateral agreements, China’s Ambassador to Solomon Islands Li Ming said Monday.

Apart from Solomon Islands, the Chinese foreign minister will also travel to Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea (in south Pacific) and East Timor during his tour of the Pacific Island nations. He will also connect with the leaders of Micronesia, the Cook Islands and Niue through video links, according to a report in the Global Times.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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