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Australia says it will help train the Pacific islands' defence forces, while China plans to do the same

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - Australia will open a defence school to train the militaries of Pacific islands, said Canberra's new ...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Australia will open a defence school to train the militaries of Pacific islands, said Canberra's new minister for the Pacific. This comes as competition for security ties in the region heats up, and as China plans a meeting to compete with next month's Pacific Islands Forum.

Pat Conroy, Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, said on Tuesday at a Pacific conference that Australia will double the money it spends on aerial surveillance of the Pacific islands' huge fishing zone. Australia will also give money to the Pacific islands so they can build stronger infrastructure because sea levels are expected to rise four times faster in the Pacific than in the rest of the world.

In a video message to the conference in Suva, the capital of Fiji, he said, "The Australian Government knows that security and climate change are two sides of the same coin."

Next month, at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, leaders from the region will talk about China's efforts to make a trade and security deal with 10 Pacific island nations that have diplomatic ties with China.

A draught of the deal that got out showed that it dealt with fisheries, maritime security, and training for police.

Australia and New Zealand, which have voiced concern about China's recent security deal with the Solomon Islands, are two of the 18 members of the forum. There are also a number of countries that recognise Taiwan but not Beijing.

A source close to the situation told Reuters that China, which is not a member of the PIF, wants to hold a video meeting with the 10 countries it wants to sign a multilateral pact with on July 14, the last day of the PIF leaders meeting.

The Communist Party's international department is planning a meeting between political leaders on the same day that the leaders of the forum are expected to put out a statement. It is not clear if the meeting with China will happen because some countries are upset about the timing.

Last year, the minister for the international department of the Communist Party put on a similar event.

At a daily press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that questions about the meeting should be sent to "relevant competent authorities." He also made some general comments.

"At the moment, China's relationships with Pacific island countries are going well, with government agencies, legislative bodies, political parties, and civil society on both sides keeping in close touch and working together," he said.

He said that the PIF had stopped holding an annual meeting for non-member countries that were considered dialogue partners, such as China and the United States.

"We fully respect the PIF side's decision to cancel the dialogue event this year, and we will keep in close touch with the talkers about how to move forward," he said.

China and the island states that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan are having trouble getting along. This was shown when Tuvalu's foreign minister pulled out of a United Nations oceans conference on Monday because China wouldn't let three Taiwanese members of Tuvalu's delegation go.

Conroy said that the Pacific Islands Forum had brought the area together for 50 years and was "the heart of Pacific regionalism."

Before the meeting, he talked about what the new Australian government was going to do to help the region. For example, an Australia Pacific Defence School would train security and defence forces.

He said that the promise, which was first made during the election, to double funding for aerial surveillance of the Pacific's exclusive economic zones would make the seas safer and bring back $150 million a year that is lost to illegal fishing.

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