China & Samoa Sign Bilateral Deal Amid Beijing-Canberra Rivalry in the Pacific

© Sputnik / Alexander Vilf / Go to the mediabankWorld cities. Shanghai
World cities. Shanghai - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.05.2022
Last month, China clinched a security pact with the Solomon Islands, prompting uneasiness from Australia and its allies, including the US, which warned that Beijing’s growing Pacific clout will have “great consequences”.
China and Samoa have signed a deal to boost bilateral relations during a high-level diplomatic visit to the Pacific island.
In a statement released on Saturday, Samoa informed that China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi to sign a spate of documents, including an "economic and technical cooperation agreement".

“Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments”, the statement pointed out.

The deal comes as Australia's newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged a "comprehensive plan" for the Pacific amid on-going rivalry between Beijing and Canberra in the region.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.05.2022
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Albanese, who was sworn-in earlier this week, told reporters that his government's plan for the Pacific includes a defence training school, support for maritime security, an increase in aid and re-engaging the region on climate change.
“We will be proactive in the region, we want to engage”, he emphasised.
China’s Samoa pact comes on the heels of more than a dozen economic agreements between Beijing and the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, and as part of the Chinese foreign minister’s week-long Asia-Pacific tour.
While China hopes the agreements will cement the "bilateral political foundation" in the region, Washington has been critical, warning that they could “fuel regional and international tensions”, and that alleged Chinese military bases in the Pacific have the "potential to undermine stability”.
Beijing has rejected the US’ accusations, claiming that cooperation with the Pacific islands “does not target any country and it should not be disrupted by any country”. It also denies accusations of building military bases.
“It is never China's foreign policy, nor is it Chinese style, to impose business deals on others, interfere in Solomon Islands' internal affairs, or damage other countries' interests”, Wang stated, before also warning that against any attack on the security cooperation "will be a dead end and any interference and sabotage will be doomed to failure”.
The deals have raised concern in Australia, where Foreign Minister Penny Wong warned the Pacific nations of the possible implications of signing a security pact with China.
“We have expressed our concerns publicly about the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China and the reason why is because we have, as do other Pacific nations, we think there are consequences”, Wong stressed.
Australia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce earlier claimed in May that Beijing is “starting a process of encircling Australia”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (not pictured) during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on October 9, 2019. (Photo by Parker Song / POOL / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
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However, Beijing insists that it is Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (AUKUS) who are militarising the South Pacific.
"Australia, together with the US and the UK, is forming a military bloc and provoking an arms race in the South Pacific without any consultations with island countries of the region”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in May.
In September 2021, Canberra, Washington and London announced a new trilateral defence partnership, which forced Australia to abandon a $66 billion contract with France to develop 12 state-of-the-art conventionally powered attack submarines. The AUKUS alliance grants nuclear-powered subs to Australia to enhance its fleet in exchange.
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