Beijing [China], May 26 (ANI): China is seeking a regional agreement with Pacific island nations that would expand its role in policing, maritime cooperation, and cybersecurity and also plans to offer scholarships for over 2,000 workers and young diplomats.
Wang Yi, who is on a 10-day visit to the pacific island countries, is scheduled to meet with regional leaders next week in Fiji. Prior to his visit, Beijing sent the drafts of the deal to 10 Pacific countries, The New York Times reported.
Covering a range of issues, the documents appear to be a joint communique that Beijing wants the countries to adopt. They offer a detailed outline of how Beijing seeks to win friends and gain greater access to the island chains that have long played a strategic role in Asia’s geopolitical contests.
The visit and the agreement both seem aimed to counter American efforts to strengthen alliances in Asia.
Yi’s first stop is the Solomon Islands, where he is scheduled to appear on Thursday to sign a security pact that has already put the Americans and the region on edge. And he is visiting within days of President Biden’s Quad meeting in Tokyo with their members, where the focus was on containing China’s regional influence, according to The New York Times.
“Wang Yi’s visit in my view is a direct challenge to the open and free Indo-Pacific,” Peter Kenilorea Jr, the Solomon Islands deputy opposition leader said.
China is trying to show the Pacific that while the United States and its allies are “talking about you” in their Quad meeting, Kenilorea said, Chinese officials are “here to talk directly to you.” But, he added, China was also making demands.
“A regional approach is a clear escalation of Chinese Communist Party’s ambition in the Pacific,” Kenilorea said, referring to China’s ruling Communist Party.
It amounts to a rapid acceleration of a diplomatic push that has, until now, largely focused on one country at a time. The leaked agreement has the potential to pull several nations into Beijing’s orbit at once if widely approved, reported The New York Times.
And there are signs that the bold approach could backfire. The Pacific islands span thousands of miles, with sparsely populated countries that have unique histories and rivalries.
President David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia has already warned that the documents reflected nothing short of an effort by China “to acquire access and control of our region.”
Granting China greater access, to the seas, lands, customs systems, and digital networks of their countries, will increase the chances of Beijing’s invasion into Taiwan, Panuelo argued.
He further noted that this also looks like going to war with the United States, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
According to the document sent to Pacific island countries, this year, if Covid allows, China promises to start a new training program for young diplomats from Pacific Island countries. It’s part of a capacity-building plan that also includes seminars on Chinese governance.
On the Solomon Islands, the country’s media association has vowed to boycott Wang’s visit to Honiara, the capital, because the published schedule included a news conference on Thursday specifying that only one local journalist would be allowed to ask just a single question.
“It’s so unfortunate that Solomons is being used by Beijing now to push their own regional ambitions and destabilize order,” the Solomon Islands deputy opposition leader said. (ANI)