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China Seeks Cooperation Deal with 10 Pacific Island Nations

FILE - Spectators hold a Chinese flag as they watch a ceremony to mark the opening of Independence Drive Boulevard in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, File)
China Seeks Cooperation Deal with 10 Pacific Island Nations
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China wants 10 small Pacific nations to join an agreement covering many issues including security and fisheries. The agreement would permit China to gain more influence over the area.

The Associated Press (AP) received a draft of the agreement. It shows that China wants to train police officers, cooperate on “traditional and non-traditional security” and expand law enforcement cooperation. The plan is called the Common Development Vision.

China also wants to develop a plan for fisheries. The agreement would increase cooperation on operating the area’s internet networks. It also would set up cultural Confucius Institutes and classrooms. China also suggests the possibility of setting up a free trade area with the Pacific nations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a delegation of 20 officials are beginning a visit to the Pacific area this week. Wang is visiting seven of the countries he hopes will support the plan. They include the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Samoa. Also on the list are Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.

Wang is also holding video meetings with the other three possible supporters of the agreement: the Cook Islands, Niue and the Federated States of Micronesia. Wang is hoping the countries will support the agreement after a meeting planned for May 30 in Fiji. The foreign ministers of each of the 10 countries are invited.

Micronesia, however, has rejected the plan. President David Panuelo wrote an eight-page letter to the leaders of other Pacific nations warning of serious results if they do.

He wrote that he is concerned the agreement permits China to own and control the area’s fisheries and communications infrastructure. Panuelo said in his letter that the agreement is an attempt by China to increase its influence over the Pacific nations and tie “the whole of our economies and societies to them.”

Fiji's Prime Minister Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, top left, talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Nicolas Asfouri/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Fiji's Prime Minister Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, top left, talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Nicolas Asfouri/Pool Photo via AP, File)

He also warned the agreement would heighten international political tensions. Panuelo wrote that the Common Development Vision “threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best, and a World War at worst.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday he did not 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 caught between the competing interests of the United States and China.

Micronesia has close ties to the U.S. through an agreement called 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 even though he opposes the agreement.

The security parts of the agreement will be particularly troubling to many in the area and beyond. China signed a separate security agreement with the Solomon Islands last month.

The draft agreement also states that the Pacific countries “firmly abideby the one-China policy. That is the policy by the government in Beijing under which Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy, is considered to be part of China.

The AP has also received a draft of another five-year plan that China hopes to have signed along with the Common Development Vision. Under the five-year plan, China is offering the Pacific nations different incentives like aid for law enforcement, education and governance.

China says it will also spend an additional $2 million and send 200 medical professionals to the islands to provide health services and fight COVID-19. China also promises to help the countries in their efforts to fight climate change.

I’m Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

draft n. a beginning version of a document made before the final version is reached

infrastructuren. the basic equipment and structures, such as roads, power and communications, needed for a country to operate correctly

era –n. a period of time that is tied to a quality, event or person

triggerv. something that causes a strong reaction

abide by n. to accept or be guided by something

incentive n. a reason to do something