US Warns China's New Pact With Pacific Nations Could 'Fuel International Tensions’
05:57 GMT 26.05.2022 (Updated: 18:35 GMT 19.10.2022)
Beijing is seeking a “region-wide deal” with a dozen Pacific Island nations, which entails policing, security and data communication cooperation, as per Reuters. A draft communique and a “five-year action plan” has been sent by Beijing to the 10 Pacific nations ahead of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to Fiji next week.
The US State Department has warned that a proposed agreement on policing, security and data communication between China and at least 10 Pacific Island nations could “fuel regional and international tensions”.
State Department spokesperson further said at a regular press briefing on Wednesday that the proposed pact could “increase concerns
over Beijing’s expansion of internal – of its internal security apparatus to the Pacific.”
“We are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, non-transparent process. At the same time, we respect the ability of countries of the region to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people,” stated Price.
The US official went on to accuse Beijing of following a “pattern of offering shadowy, vague deals with little transparency” to the Pacific Island nations.
“And these recent security agreements have been conducted with little regional consultation, provoking public concern not only in the United States but across the Indo-Pacific region,” Price also remarked, in what appeared to be a reference to the security cooperation agreemen
t between China and the Solomon Islands unveiled last month.
“And we don’t believe that importing security forces from the PRC and their methods will help any Pacific Island country,” he suggested.
Both the US and Australia have protested the Sino-Solomon pact, arguing that it could be a precursor to a Chinese military base in the region. Both Beijing and Honiara have rejected the charge and accused the western capitals of “insulting” the small Pacific nation.
Price refused to categorise the proposed regional pact between the Pacific countries and Beijing as a “reaction” to President Joe Biden’s recent visit to South Korea and Japan, where he also attended the Quad Leaders’ Summit
which also featured the leaders of Australia, India and Japan.
“I think this may be a reflection – the PRC’s response to our sustained engagement with the region since we came into office. Of course, President Biden’s visit to Japan, to South Korea, was only the latest element of that,” stated Price.
The US official also said that Beijing's growing footprint in the Pacific region was a topic of discussion during the Quad Summit in Tokyo.
China Wants to Contribute to ‘Peace and Stability’, Says Foreign Ministry
The remarks by Price come against the backdrop of ongoing multi-nation visit
of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, as well as a virtual visit to the Federated States of Micronesia. Wang landed in Solomon Islands on Wednesday evening and the trip will conclude on 4 June.
In Fiji, Wang will co-host the second ‘China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting’, as per Beijing and reportedly unveil the new regional pact.
When asked about the new regionwide pact with Pacific Island nations, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday refused to either confirm or deny the development.
Wang, however, remarked that the ongoing visit of the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to eight Pacific nations was aimed at strengthening “friendly and cooperative relationship between China and relevant countries, and contributes to peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.”
The Chinese official underlined that exchange and cooperation between the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and China was being carried out on “equal-footed consultation”.
He further noted that trade between Beijing and the Pacific Island nations had grown at an annual rate of 13 per cent since 1992, and that 10 nations have signed up for the Belt and Road Initiative, a global connectivity initative backed by Beijing.
“China is ready to work with the PICs in taking this visit as an opportunity to further strengthen high-level exchange, consolidate political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, and deepen people-to-people bond so as to build an even closer community with a shared future for China and Pacific Island countries,” Wang added.