China wants 10 Pacific nations to endorse sweeping agreement

May 25, 2022, 1:49 AM | Updated: 8:12 pm
FILE - A woman crosses the street near a billboard commemorating the state visit of Chinese Preside...

FILE - A woman crosses the street near a billboard commemorating the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Nov. 15, 2018. China wants 10 small Pacific nations to endorse a sweeping agreement covering everything from security to fisheries in what one leader warns is a “game-changing” bid by Beijing to wrest control of the region. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — China wants 10 small Pacific nations to endorse a sweeping agreement covering everything from security to fisheries in what one leader warns is a “game-changing” bid by Beijing to wrest control of the region.

A draft of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press shows that China wants to train Pacific police officers, team up on “traditional and non-traditional security” and expand law enforcement cooperation.

China also wants to jointly develop a marine plan for fisheries — which would include the Pacific’s lucrative tuna catch — increase cooperation on running the region’s internet networks, and set up cultural Confucius Institutes and classrooms. China also mentions the possibility of setting up a free trade area with the Pacific nations.

China’s move comes as Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a 20-person delegation begin a visit to the region this week.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price expressed concern Wednesday about China’s intentions, saying Beijing might use the proposed accords to take advantage of the islands and destabilize the region.

“We are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, nontransparent process,” Price told reporters. He warned that China “has a pattern of offering shadowy, vague deals with little transparency or regional consultation in areas related to fishing, related to resource management, development, development assistance and more recently even security practices.”

Price added that agreements that include sending Chinese security officials to the nations “could only seek to fuel regional international tensions and increase concerns over Beijing’s expansion of its internal security apparatus to the Pacific.”

Wang is visiting seven of the countries he hopes will endorse the “Common Development Vision” — the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Wang is also holding virtual meetings with the other three potential signatories — the Cook Islands, Niue and the Federated States of Micronesia. He is hoping the countries will endorse the pre-written agreement as part of a joint communique after a May 30 meeting in Fiji he is holding with the foreign ministers from each of the 10 countries.

Micronesia’s president, David Panuelo, has told leaders of the other Pacific nations his nation won’t endorse the plan, warning it would needlessly heighten geopolitical tensions and threaten regional stability, according to a letter from Panuelo obtained by the AP.

Among other concerns, Panuelo said, the agreement opens the door for China to own and control the region’s fisheries and communications infrastructure. He said China could intercept emails and listen in on phone calls.

Panuelo called the Common Development Vision “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes” and said it “threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best, and a World War at worst.”

Panuelo declined to comment on the letter or the proposed agreement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday he didn’t know about Panuelo’s letter.

“But I don’t agree at all with the argument that cooperation between China and the South Pacific island countries will trigger a new Cold War,” he said.

Like some other countries in the Pacific, Micronesia is finding itself increasingly caught between the competing interests of Washington and Beijing.

Micronesia has close ties to the U.S. through a Compact of Free Association. But it also has what Panuelo describes in his letter as a “Great Friendship” with China that he hopes will continue despite his opposition to the agreement.

The security aspects of the agreement will be particularly troubling to many in the region and beyond, especially after China signed a separate security pact with the Solomon Islands last month.

That pact has raised fears that China could send troops to the island nation or even establish a military base there, not far from Australia. The Solomon Islands and China say there are no plans for a base.

The May 30 meeting will be the second between Wang and the Pacific islands’ foreign ministers after they held a virtual meeting last October.

Those who follow China’s role in the Pacific will be scrutinizing the wording of the draft agreement.

Among its provisions: “China will hold intermediate and high-level police training for Pacific Island countries.”

The agreement says the countries will strengthen “cooperation in the fields of traditional and non-traditional security” and will “expand law enforcement cooperation, jointly combat transnational crime, and establish a dialog mechanism on law enforcement capacity and police cooperation.”

The agreement would also see the nations “expand exchanges between governments, legislatures and political parties.”

The draft agreement also stipulates that the Pacific countries “firmly abide” by the one-China principle, under which Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy, is considered by Beijing to be part of China. It would also uphold the “non-interference” principle that China often cites as a deterrent to other nations speaking out about its human rights record.

The agreement says that China and the Pacific countries would jointly formulate a marine spatial plan “to optimize the layout of the marine economy, and develop and utilize marine resources rationally, so as to promote a sustainable development of blue economy.”

China also promises more investment in the region by mobilizing private capital and encouraging “more competitive and reputable Chinese enterprises to participate in direct investment in Pacific Island countries.”

China also promised to dispatch Chinese language consultants, teachers and volunteers to the islands.

The AP has also obtained a draft of a five-year action plan that’s intended to sit alongside the Common Development Vision, which outlines a number of immediate incentives that China is offering to the Pacific nations.

In the action plan, China says it will fully implement 2,500 government scholarships through 2025.

“In 2022, China will hold the first training program for young diplomats from Pacific Island countries, depending on the pandemic situation,” the draft plan states, adding that China will also hold seminars on governance and planning for the Pacific nations.

In the draft action plan, China says it will build criminal investigation laboratories as needed by the Pacific nations that can be used for fingerprint testing, forensic autopsies, and electronic forensics.

China also says it will also spend an additional $2 million and send 200 medics to the islands to help fight COVID-19 and promote health, and promises to help the countries in their efforts to combat climate change.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Players wait before entering the field prior to the final women's game of the national cup of worki...
Associated Press

French soccer tournament celebrates diversity, fights racism

CRETEIL, France (AP) — An amateur soccer tournament in France aimed at celebrating ethnic diversity is attracting talent scouts, sponsors and increasing public attention, by uniting young players from low-income neighborhoods with high-profile names in the sport. The National Neighborhoods Cup is intended to shine a positive spotlight on working-class areas with large immigrant populations […]
8 hours ago
This image filed May 15, 2019 in federal court as part of a forfeiture complaint by the U.S. attorn...
Associated Press

Long-missing Alexander Hamilton letter put on public display

BOSTON (AP) — A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 and believed stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts state archives is going back on display — though not exactly in the room where it happened. The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece at the Commonwealth Museum’s annual July Fourth exhibit, Secretary of […]
8 hours ago
FILE - More than 100 opponents of the Republican redistricting plans vow to fight the maps at a ral...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling puts spotlight on gerrymandered legislatures

In overturning a half-century of nationwide legal protection for abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Roe v. Wade had been wrongly decided and that it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” in the states. Whether those elected officials are truly representative of the people is a matter […]
8 hours ago
Nate Looney poses in front of a painting at the BAR Center at the Beach Thursday, June 16, 2022, in...
Associated Press

Black Jewish leader works to boost community, inclusiveness

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nate Looney is a Black man who grew up in Los Angeles, a descendant of enslaved people from generations ago. He’s also an observant, kippah-wearing Jew. But he doesn’t always feel welcome in Jewish spaces — his skin color sometimes elicits questioning glances, suspicions and hurtful assumptions. Once, he walked into […]
8 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the W...
Associated Press

From one July Fourth to the next, a steep slide for Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last Fourth of July, President Joe Biden gathered hundreds of people outside the White House for an event that would have been unthinkable for many Americans the previous year. With the coronavirus in retreat, they ate hamburgers and watched fireworks over the National Mall. Although the pandemic wasn’t over yet, Biden said, […]
8 hours ago
Chief Nurse Executive Danielle Maness stands in an empty examination room that was used to perform ...
Associated Press

After abortion ruling, clinic staff grapple with trauma

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Danielle Maness has squeezed the hands of hundreds of anxious patients lying on tables in the procedure room, now empty. She’s recorded countless vital signs and delivered scores of snacks to the recovery area, now silent. Peering into each darkened room at West Virginia ‘s only abortion clinic, the chief nurse […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
China wants 10 Pacific nations to endorse sweeping agreement