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China seeks policing and security cooperation on Pacific islands - document Needham, Kirsty

Images: Reuters Berita 24 English - When Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosts a summit in Fiji next week, documents reviewed by Reuters suggest th...

Images: Reuters

Berita 24 English - When Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosts a summit in Fiji next week, documents reviewed by Reuters suggest that China will seek a regional agreement spanning policing, security, and data communications cooperation.

A draft communiqué and five-year action plan given by Beijing to ten Pacific islands ahead of a foreign ministers conference on May 30 has sparked criticism from at least one of the invited countries, which claims it demonstrates China's desire to govern the region and "threatens regional stability."

President David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia said in a letter to 21 Pacific leaders seen by Reuters that his country will argue that the "pre-determined common declaration" should be rejected because it may start a new "Cold War" between China and the West.

Between May 26 and June 4, Wang will go to eight Pacific island nations with which China has diplomatic links.

He will arrive in the Solomon Islands on Thursday, despite opposition from Australia, the United States, Japan, and New Zealand, who believe the agreement will disrupt regional security arrangements and give China a military base in the Pacific.

Beijing denies this, claiming that the accord is only about domestic policing and that western criticism is interfering with the Solomon Islands' autonomous decision-making.

China's foreign ministry did not react to a request for comment on the paper, which was first reported here.

The FSM administration declined to comment on the letter to Reuters, despite having a defense deal with the US and an economic cooperation arrangement with China.


A regional pact spanning security and trade between China and Pacific islands would signal a shift in Beijing's focus from bilateral connections to multilateral dealings with the Pacific, raising concerns among the US and its allies.

Beijing has released a draft text, as well as a five-year action plan, for the China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision summit in Fiji.

It claims that China and the Pacific Islands will "intensify exchanges and cooperation in traditional and nontraditional security domains."

According to a document reviewed by Reuters, "China will hold intermediate and high-level police training for Pacific Island Countries through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms."

The action plan calls for a ministerial debate on law enforcement capability and collaboration in 2022, as well as China's contribution of forensic police laboratories.

The draft communiqué also calls for collaboration on data networks, cyber security, and smart customs systems, as well as a "balanced approach to technical progress, economic development, and national security protection" by Pacific countries.

Huawei, which is banned from multiple US allies' 5G networks, has been repeatedly stopped in attempts to build underwater cables or manage mobile networks in the Pacific islands by Australia and the US, which offered competing bids for the sensitive infrastructure, citing national security concerns.

A China-Pacific Islands Free Trade Area is also proposed, as well as help for climate change and health initiatives.

Panuelo claims in his letter to other leaders that the communiqué will push Pacific islands with diplomatic links to China "extremely close into Beijing's orbit, inherently attaching the whole of our economy and society to them."

Panuelo emphasized the danger of Pacific islands becoming embroiled in geopolitical strife as tensions between the US and China over Taiwan escalate.

"Aside from impacts on our sovereignty, the practical impacts of Chinese control over our communications infrastructure, our ocean territory and the resources within them, and our security space is that it increases the chances of China getting into conflict with Australia, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand," he said.

"Biodata gathering and mass surveillance of persons residing in, entering, and leaving our islands" would result from China's provision of customs systems, he warned.

The letter was also scathing of Australia's failure to address climate change, which Panuelo described as the region's greatest security danger.

This week, new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to enhance climate financing to Pacific islands, claiming that climate change is the most serious economic and security threat facing low-lying island nations.

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