The United States dealt a strategic blow to China in the Pacific amid major influence-building efforts by both countries.
The United States has dealt a strategic blow to China’s ambitions in the Pacific, as both countries seek to increase their influence in the region.
As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on an eight-country tour of the Pacific this week, the White House announced that Fiji had joined the Indo-Pacific Prosperity Economic Framework (IPEF). in English) as a founding member.
Fiji is the 14th nation to join, along with Australia, Japan, Indonesia and other countries in Asia and Oceania.
Beijing said the framework was a “tool to coerce regional countries.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of “aggressive and illegal” moves in the South China Sea.
“We cannot trust Beijing to change its course. Therefore, we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to further our vision of an open and inclusive international system,” said Mr. Blinken.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was also in Fiji on Friday, addressing media in the capital Suva.
Senator Wong said that Australia sought to be a “partner of choice” for Pacific countries.
“We want to be a partner of choice and demonstrate to your nation and other nations in the region that we are a partner that can be trusted and [is] reliable, and historically we have been,” he said.
Senator Wong added that other Pacific nations share Australia’s concerns about a controversial security deal between China and the Solomon Islands.
“We think it is important that the security of the region is determined by the region. And historically that has been the case,” he said.
Wang visited the Solomon Islands on Thursday as the first stop on his Pacific tour that will also pass through Kiribati before heading to Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
In addition to being the first stops of Wang’s visit, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati are also the latest nations to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, both in 2019.
Speaking from the Solomon Islands capital Honiara during his visit, Wang said China had “no intention” of establishing a military base in the country.
Mr. Wang argued that a security agreement between the countries was “clean, with honesty and integrity.”
“It is not imposed on anyone, nor is it directed at any third party,” he said.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan thanked Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for joining IPEF, which he says will help secure the economic future of the region.
“The future of the 21st century economy will largely be written in the Indo-Pacific, and IPEF will help drive sustainable growth in all of our economies,” said Mr. Sullivan.
“Fiji, a close partner of the United States and a leader in the region, will add vital value and perspective to IPEF, including in our efforts to address the climate crisis and build a clean economy that creates good-paying jobs.”