Talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and representatives of 10 Pacific nations failed to reach an agreement on security on Monday, after strong warnings about the risk of the region falling into the fold from Beijing.
A virtual summit on greater diplomatic, economic and political cooperation between Beijing and regional countries appears to have failed, with some leaders expressing deep concern.
“As always, we favored consensus” and it will have to be reached to sign any “new regional agreement”, declared the co-organizer and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the end of this meeting.
Mr. Wang is in Suva, the capital of Fiji, as part of a ten-day tour of the region, as Beijing and Washington vie for influence in this strategic region.
Before his arrival, Beijing proposed an agreement on how China intends to train their police, help them with cybersecurity, but also carry out mapping of the sensitive seabed and obtain better access to their maritime and terrestrial natural resources. .
Beijing dangles millions of dollars in financial aid, the prospect of a free trade agreement with the China-Pacific islands and access to the vast Chinese market.
China presents itself as a “large developing country” that stands alongside small and medium-sized nations.
Before the opening of this summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message, saying that his country would be "a nice brother" for the region and that they shared a "common destiny", according to Chinese state television CCTV.
In a letter to other leaders in the region, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, David Panuelo, described as “misleading” this proposed agreement intended to “ensure Chinese influence on the government” and the “ economic control" of key sectors.
After the meeting, which was held behind closed doors on Monday, Wang did not mention the proposed document.
“Reaching a Consensus”
He said, however, that the two sides would "continue to have continuous and in-depth discussions and consultations in order to build a broader consensus on cooperation."
“China will publish its own position”, which will refer to “our own positions and those of the Pacific island countries”, according to him.
Wang, however, announced that the 10 island nations have reached MoUs on the New Silk Road and called for not worrying about Beijing's designs.
Many Western countries are annoyed by Beijing's offensive, with the US State Department warning Pacific nations against such "opaque and vague deals" with China.
Australia joined the United States in urging China to stop expanding its security influence in the region.
The nations of the Pacific remain concerned with maintaining good relations with China, finding the right balance between Beijing and Washington or even using it to play against each other.
While standing alongside the Chinese minister, the Fijian premier lashed out at those who engage in a 'race to score geopolitical points'.
"It means nothing to anyone who is threatened by rising waters, who has lost their job due to the pandemic, or whose family is affected by rising prices for basic necessities."
Most Pacific islands are low lying, which makes them particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change.