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July 8, 2024, 8:05 p.m.
Pacific island leaders in China amid intensifying regional competition
Pacific island leaders in China amid intensifying regional competition
['island', 'China', 'security', 'Solomon', 'Pacific']

Irvine, California — Jeremiah Manele and Charlot Salwai, the prime ministers of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, are in China this week. Their visits come as Beijing seeks to grow its bilateral ties with the two South Pacific nations and as China is increasin…

Pacific island leaders in China amid intensifying regional competition

Following his trip to China, Manele travels to Japan to attend the 10th Pacific Islands Leaders meeting from July 16 to July 18. Despite a failed attempt to push through a regional security pact with 10 Pacific Island nations in 2022, China continues to seek opportunities to increase its influence in the Pacific. China signed a police cooperation deal with the Solomon Islands last year and has offered to provide security support to Tonga for a Pacific Islands Forum taking place in August. Since China has presented itself as a security stakeholder in the Pacific region, some experts say Beijing will likely keep building security partnerships with regional countries. Despite these attempts, Walsh in Munich said China is still making inroads in several Pacific island nations, including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati. "The West doesn't seem to have an effective response," he told VOA. There is also the question of whether security deals align with the needs of Pacific island countries, said the Griffith Asia Institute's Cain. "While Pacific island countries don't see China as posing any military threat to them, they need to have relevant security conversations with countries in order to talk about what they are really concerned about," she told VOA. To safeguard their interests, Novak at the Atlantic Council said regional countries are likely to try to foster positive relationships with all external partners, whether it's the United States, Australia, or China.

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