Australia and China Forge Stronger Climate Change Alliances with Pacific Island Nations

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On August 23, leaders from the Pacific Islands convened at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) summit to address pressing issues, with climate change, security, and trade topping the agenda.

The summit, which brought together leaders from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia’s ruling FLNKS party, marked the first MSG meeting in five years.

“The Melanesian Spearhead Group summit is the first to be held in five years and comes as the great powers of China and the U.S. compete for Pacific influence,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said at the meeting.

Leaders are considering declaring the Pacific Islands a “region of peace and neutrality” with a new security framework, potentially providing China a platform to strengthen regional security relations amid its competition with the United States for influence.

The Pacific Islands Forum, consisting of 18 nations, had earlier denied China’s proposal for a 10-nation security and trade agreement. Some Pacific countries, like Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, have separate defence and security pacts with the United States and China, highlighting the intricate geopolitical dynamics.

Given the country’s dependence on Australian aid, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, faced political criticism for signing a security pact with Australia. At the same time, Australia’s Special Envoy for the Pacific, Ewen McDonald, highlighted Australia’s interest in increased engagement with MSG nations, focusing on climate change and key areas of cooperation.

Through its ambassador to Vanuatu, Li Minggang, China affirmed its commitment to regional peace, stability, and cooperation. They expressed interest in deepening cooperation in various sectors, including the economy, trade, tourism, and climate change.

“The MSG had played an important role in promoting regional peace and stability,” Li Minggang said.

As leaders deliberate on the future direction of the Pacific Islands, the world closely monitors the ongoing China-US competition for influence in this crucial region.

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