‘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…

Cabinet committee blocked plan to double Australia’s support to Pacific, election-eve leak reveals

The Morrison government has been hit by an election-eve leak that cabinet’s national security committee blocked a proposal by the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, to double Australia’s support to the Pacific. Labor said the “extraordinary” pre-election leak, first reported by the Australian newspaper, showed the government was “falling apart”, while Scott Morrison insisted the committee was “extremely tight”. The revelation was expected to trigger renewed debate about the government’s Pacific policy in the wake of China signing a security deal with Solomon Islands. Guardian Australia has confirmed that the…

New Zealand foreign minister blames ‘relationship failure’ for China-Solomons security deal

The shock over China’s security deal with Solomon Islands is evidence of “a relationship failure” , New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister has said, confirming that the pact took New Zealand, Australia and other Pacific nations completely by surprise. The deal marks Beijing’s first known bilateral security agreement in the Pacific. The text of the final deal is secret, but a draft leaked on social media in March granted Chinese military and police significant access to the country, allowing China to “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and…

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…

The China-Solomons security deal has been signed, time to move on from megaphone diplomacy | Meg Keen

Now that the Solomons-China security agreement is signed, there’s little value in indulging in a retrospective blame game. Instead, we would benefit from a sharpened focus on the security issues ahead and how collectively to address them. With respect to the Solomons-China security deal there are several key issues that need our attention. First, the secrecy of the deal reflects a pattern, not an unforeseen surprise. Previous “security surprises” include Santo in Vanuatu, Tulagi in Solomon Islands and Kanton in Kiribati. These deals are a push by China, via the…

Labor ‘gravely concerned’ by Karen Andrews’ claim about potential China election interference

Labor has raised grave concerns about the home affairs minister’s use of “privileged access to intelligence reporting”, after Karen Andrews publicly alluded to a potential attempt by China at interference in the federal election. The shadow minister, Kristina Keneally, has written to Andrews to remind her of “the vital convention that opposition is briefed on any developing matters of national security” during the election caretaker mode. The letter, seen by Guardian Australia, was sent after Andrews implied China might have timed the announcement of a security deal with Solomon Islands…

Why China’s Security Pact With the Solomon Islands is a Threat

SYDNEY, Australia — When the Solomon Islands’ prime minister stood before Parliament on Wednesday to announce that his government had signed a sweeping security agreement with China, he insisted that it would “not adversely impact or undermine the peace and harmony of our region.” The prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, did not explain why he delivered the news just a few days before a delegation of senior American diplomats was set to arrive in the country’s capital, and while neighboring Australia is in the midst of an election campaign. Nor did…

Solomon Islands-China pact is worst policy failure in Pacific since 1945, Labor says

Labor has lashed the Coalition in the wake of the newly signed security agreement between China and Solomon Islands, branding it “the worst Australian foreign policy blunder in the Pacific” in decades. The Coalition government sounded the alarm over the deal, arguing the pact has been negotiated in secret and could “undermine stability in our region”. The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, and the minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said they were “deeply disappointed” by the deal, and would “seek further clarity on the terms of the agreement, and…

Canberra’s tired old script has led to a less democratic Solomon Islands and a less secure Australia

China must be hoping that Australia persists in its “business as usual” approach to Solomon Islands. An appeasement policy by Australia towards the Solomons prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has been outstandingly successful for Beijing over the past few years, and the CCP’s muscular actions in the South Pacific in the last six months seem to anticipate that it will continue. Since the news of Sogavare’s alleged secret military deal with China was leaked in March, the cycle of response and counter-response between Honiara and Canberra has been entirely predictable. It…

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