South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-deployment”, with Australia’s new prime minister saying China is launching a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among Western powers.
An interview with Sky News aired on Sunday – Anthony Albaniz’s remarks came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting Fiji to meet with island nation leaders and others across the region.
Wang, who began his South Pacific tour of the Solomon Islands on Thursday, is expected to discuss a comprehensive draft agreement and a five-year plan that would dramatically expand security and economic cooperation with South Pacific nations.
But Albanese says Australia’s own new diplomatic push has been well received.
“The response has been very positive,” Albanese said, referring to the response from Pacific leaders to recent efforts, including the visit of new Foreign Minister Penny Ong to Fiji last week.
The prime minister said Australia’s previous government had “thrown the ball” into the Pacific Ocean, both in terms of aid and “not involved in values”.
“For our Pacific island neighbors, the issue of climate change is an absolute national security issue,” Albanese said.
In addition to enhanced action on the environment, he spoke of increasing support and a plan to establish a defense training school in the Pacific.
During Australia’s recent election campaign, the center-left Labor Party of Albania said the school would include forces from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang is expected to stay in Fiji’s capital until at least Tuesday, where he will hold a meeting with foreign ministers across the Pacific.
The draft agreement and a five-year plan leaked before that meeting, both obtained by AFP, would give China a greater security footprint in the region.
Australian Foreign Minister Ong warned Pacific leaders about the deal during a visit to Fiji last week.
“We have publicly expressed our concerns about the security agreement,” he said.
Beijing signed a comprehensive agreement with the Solomon Islands last month that Western governments feared China could have a military foothold in the region.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)