Smiles and unity at the Pacific Islands Forum mask tough questions shelved for another day

At the close of the Pacific Islands Forum the leaders emerged from their retreat smiling, cut a giant cake with a sword and then, in an impromptu moment of diplomatic bonhomie, posed for a selfie after Anthony Albanese whipped out his phone, Ellen DeGeneres style. It was, quite literally, a picture of harmony. “It’s been a very successful meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum,” said Albanese at his post-leaders’ retreat press conference. “We are family when it comes to the Pacific and there was a good spirit of cooperation and…

‘Things aren’t going back’: Australia braces for step-up in China’s Pacific push

The Australian government is bracing for China to step up its push to expand influence in the Pacific, with a senior figure privately conceding Canberra has a lot of work to do to regain lost trust and strengthen regional unity. Despite initial relief at a decision by Pacific island countries to defer a sweeping 10-country security and economic pact proposed by China, the Australian government now believes this may be only a temporary reprieve. “Things aren’t going back to the way they were,” said a senior Australian government figure who…

Why China Is Miles Ahead in a Pacific Race for Influence

SUVA, Fiji — Take a walk through the city where China’s foreign minister met on Monday with the leaders of nearly a dozen Pacific Island nations, and China’s imprint is unmistakable. On one side of Suva, the capital of Fiji, there’s a bridge rebuilt with Chinese loans and unveiled with the country’s prime minister standing beside China’s ambassador. On the other, down Queen Elizabeth Drive, sits Beijing’s hulking new embassy, where the road out front has been fixed by workers in neon vests bearing the name of a Chinese state-owned…

Pacific nations walk geopolitical tightrope over Ukraine war, as nuclear legacy looms

Some Pacific island nations have been left walking a geopolitical tightrope in their response to the war in Ukraine, as they try to balance regional alliances with both the west and China and Russia. Comments by Russian president Vladimir Putin, which many have interpreted as thinly veiled threats about the potential use of nuclear weapons have also touched a nerve in a region long affected by the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons testing by the US, France and Britain. Pacific leaders have broadly lambasted the Russian assault, with the Federated…

Solomon Islands’ Leader Calls Concern Over China Security Deal ‘Insulting’

solomon islands leader calls concern over china security deal insulting

MELBOURNE, Australia — In a fiery speech confirming that the Solomon Islands has drafted a security agreement with China, the island nation’s leader said on Tuesday that the deal was “ready for signing” and criticized as “insulting” concerns from Australia and New Zealand that the pact could destabilize the region’s security. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s remarks to Parliament marked the first time he had addressed the leak last week of a draft of the security agreement. The draft — which was shared by opponents of the deal and verified as…

Blinken Says U.S. Has a ‘Long-Term Future’ in the Pacific Islands

blinken says u s has a long term future in the pacific islands scaled

NADI, Fiji — As the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Fiji in 36 years, Antony J. Blinken wanted to make clear that jetting here to meet with Pacific island leaders was just the start of an expanding American presence. “We see our long-term future in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference on Saturday night, standing next to Fiji’s acting leader. “It’s as simple and basic as that.” Mr. Blinken said the United States would soon open an embassy in another Pacific nation, the Solomon Islands.…