China Looks for Cooperation with Pacific Island Nations

China prepares to explore a region-wide deal with almost a dozen Pacific islands covering policing, security and data communications cooperation when Foreign Minister Wang hosts a meeting in Fiji next week.

The China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision draft document, as well as a five-year action plan, has been circulated by Beijing ahead of the meeting in Fiji. The document says China and the Pacific islands will strengthen cooperation in the fields of traditional and non-traditional security.

The action plan outlines a ministerial dialogue on law enforcement capacity and police cooperation to be held in 2022, and China providing forensic police laboratories.

The draft communique also pledges cooperation on data networks, cyber security, smart customs systems.

The document proposes a China-Pacific Islands Free Trade Area, and support for action on climate change and health.

Beijing’s draft communique and five-year action plan sent to 10 Pacific islands ahead of a foreign ministers meeting on May 30 has prompted pushback from Micronesia. It says China wants to control the region and threatens regional stability.

Micronesia President Panuelo said his nation would argue the joint communique should be rejected because he is worried that it could cause a new Cold War between the West and China. Micronesia has a defense agreement with the United States, as well as an economic cooperation agreement with China.

Panuelo, in his letter to other leaders, said he was concerned that the communique would put the Pacific islands very close into Beijing’s orbit, and tie their economies and societies to them.

Panuelo emphasized the risk of Pacific islands being caught in geopolitical conflict as tensions rise between the United States and China over Taiwan.

Wang is set to visit eight Pacific island nations with which China holds diplomatic ties between May 26 and June 4.

He arrives on Thursday in the Solomon Islands. The country recently signed a security pact with China despite objections from Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand. They argue that it could upset the regional security arrangements and give China a military foothold in the Pacific.

Beijing rejects those claims, saying the agreement only covers domestic policing and said the West was interfering in the Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision making.

China’s foreign policy in the Pacific so far has focused on bilateral relationships to dealing with the Pacific on a multilateral basis. The new region-wide arrangement points to a change in that policy.

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