Foreign Minister Penny Wong will return to the Pacific on Wednesday night, hot on the heels of a major influence-building effort by China in the region.
Senator Wong will visit Samoa and Tonga less than a day after her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, who was in Tonga on Tuesday.
Mr Wang is in the middle of a 10-day tour of the region, raising fears of more countries striking deals similar to a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands which caused serious alarm bells in Australia earlier this year.
Several “co-operation” deals were signed during Mr Wang’s visit to Tonga, covering a range of issues including disaster mitigation, agriculture and fisheries and health, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Discussions reportedly included Tonga’s support of China’s Belt and Road as well as “noninterference in internal affairs and respect for sovereignty”.
Senator Wong – who is taking her third international trip since being sworn into her role roughly two weeks ago – said she was aiming to “renew and strengthen Australia‘s deep ties” on her latest visit.
“We will increase our contribution to regional security: we understand that the security of the Pacific is the responsibility of the Pacific family, of which Australia is a part,” Senator Wong said.
Chinese efforts to implement a 10-nation security deal with Pacific countries reportedly failed this week after some members raised concerns over the specifics of the deal.
Both Australia and China have marked recent regional visits with expressions of the social and economic opportunities they can offer Pacific Island leaders.
Tonga owes two-thirds of its external $195 million debt to the Chinese government-owned Export-Import Bank – however, Australia and New Zealand remain the country’s largest aid contributors.
Both China and Australia sent navy ships and resources to assist in Tonga’s immediate recovery following a recent volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Senator Wong said Australia was looking to strengthen the region through pandemic recovery, health, development and infrastructure support, as well as through our Pacific labour programs and permanent migration.
“I look forward to listening to leaders in Samoa and Tonga about how the Australian Government can best apply the new energy and resources we are bringing to the Pacific,” she said.
Denial of responsibility! insideheadline is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.