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Pacific leaders must meet to discuss a possible China treaty, according to Samoa's prime minister

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - Samoa's governor said on Thursday that Pacific island leaders agree that China's plan for a broa...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Samoa's governor said on Thursday that Pacific island leaders agree that China's plan for a broad trade and security pact should be reviewed in a regional meeting before any decisions are taken.

Beijing officials circulated a draft deal between China and ten island nations including policing, security, fishing, data, and a free trade zone ahead of China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi's regional tour, which began last week.

Some Pacific nations are concerned about the security ideas in the memo, which was first published by Reuters, and that tying their economy so closely to Beijing could cause tension with the US and its allies.

On Monday, a virtual gathering of ten Pacific foreign ministers held by Wang in Fiji agreed to put the plan on hold for now.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa expressed concern on Thursday that Pacific islands had been unable to examine China's proposal among themselves first.

"To be brought in to have that debate and demand a thorough decision or outcome was something that we could not agree to," she said in a joint press conference with Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who arrived in Samoa on Thursday.

"I believe the area has come to the conclusion that we need to convene as a region to discuss any proposition that our development partners provide to us."

The Pacific Islands Forum is the largest regional body, which comprises Australia and New Zealand, as well as states who have diplomatic connections to Taiwan but not Beijing.

China's increasing assertiveness in establishing a security and enforcement presence in the Pacific islands, an area with strategic military significance, has alarmed Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Wong stated that Australia has "taken the perspective that regional security is a Pacific family problem."

Wong will travel to Tonga on Friday, just days after China's Wang paid a visit, to convey the new Australian government's commitment to doing more to combat climate change, which the Pacific islands consider to be the greatest security threat.


Wang has signed a number of bilateral agreements on commerce, fisheries, infrastructure, and the provision of police equipment as he nears the end of his eight-nation South Pacific tour.

The state-owned China Daily slammed the anxiety raised by Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Japan over Wang's travel to the Pacific islands in an editorial.

According to the statement, China had proposed "pragmatic measures" adapted to the development needs of Pacific islands.

"Those who are disturbed by his visit are engaged in frantic diplomatic maneuvering, both openly and behind the scenes," it stated.

Wang will arrive in Papua New Guinea on Thursday, where emotions are high in the run-up to a national election, and an official informed the media that Beijing's proposed regional security pact has sparked opposition.

The Post Courier quoted Papua New Guinea's Foreign Affairs Secretary Elias Wohengu as saying, "There has been animosity over the Pacific Agreement on security problems."

Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who is running for the presidency, has criticized the timing of Wang's visit.

According to the Post Courier newspaper, no agreements should be inked with China before the election, and it would be "improper" for China to give security equipment or provide security support during the election.

Earlier this week, ABC reported that Beijing would provide 2,000 body armor kits to police during Wang's visit.

Resource-rich Papua New Guinea has strong defense relations with its neighbor Australia, which has committed to upgrade a naval facility there, but it is also looking to expand its LNG supplies to China.

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