Western nations raised the alarm on Thursday over reported plans to drastically increase China’s military and economic clout in the South Pacific, in what one regional leader described as a thinly veiled attempt to encircle island states in “Beijing’s orbit.”
The wide-ranging draught pact and a five-year plan, both acquired by AFP, would give China a stronger security footprint in a region viewed as critical to the interests of the US and its allies if accepted by Pacific island governments.
As he began an eight-nation journey to propose the potentially lucrative offer, Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed Western criticism of Beijing’s expanding participation in the Pacific.
“China’s cooperation with Pacific Island countries does not target any country,” he said in Honiara, Solomon Islands, urging other countries not to intervene.
“All the Pacific island countries are entitled to make their own choice instead of being just mere followers of others,” he told journalists.
The Chinese package would provide millions of dollars in aid to ten small island republics, as well as the possibility of a China-Pacific Islands free trade deal and access to China’s massive 1.4 billion-person market.
It would also allow China to educate local police, participate in local cybersecurity, strengthen political connections, perform sensitive marine mapping, and acquire more access to natural resources.