China has difficulty in the 'outpost' of the South Pacific

China has difficulty in the 'outpost' of the South Pacific

Jun 09, 2023

Beijing [China], June 9: Fiji's announcement of a review of an important security agreement with China is considered an important development in the competition for influence in the South Pacific region.
Yesterday, the AP quoted Fiji's Prime Minister SitiveniRabuka as saying that the country is reviewing a security cooperation agreement on allowing Chinese police to be stationed in Fiji. Even speaking at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of New Zealand in Wellington, Prime Minister Rabuka also hinted that the agreement would be suspended.
Signed in 2011 and is an important achievement for China in expanding influence in the South Pacific island nations, but the agreement is controversial within Fiji itself. Over the past time, the US has also reached a number of agreements to strengthen cooperation with countries in the region, but gradually faced many challenges when faced with fierce competition from the US and its allies. Therefore, if Fiji suspends the agreement, it will be a big challenge for China in the region known as the "outpost" in the Pacific.
From the US-China competition
Answering ThanhNien on June 8, former US Navy colonel Carl O.Schuster (former Director of Operations of the Joint Intelligence Center - Pacific Command of the US Navy and currently teaching at the University of Hawaii Pacific) assessed: "About five years ago, the US and China had a strategic competition in the South Pacific Islands. Before 2017, the US lacked strengthening relations with countries in the region. In this regard, China has conditions to expand its influence here. In which, the Solomon Islands signed security agreements with China. Only later did the US realize its mistake and start making competitive efforts." .
"The United States recognizes that China is not only gaining security relationships and access to those countries, but also building airports, ports, and other infrastructure that can also be used for military purposes. China's bases in the South Pacific could complicate US military operations in the western Pacific, while also allowing China's navy and air force to operate outside the first island chain. ", Mr. Schuster analyzed.
In fact, recently, the US has gradually reached some agreements and strengthened cooperation with countries in this region.
To the coordination of the "Quartet" and India to raise the role
Also responding to ThanhNien on June 8, Dr. Satoru Nagao (Hudson Research Institute, USA) commented that Fiji's decision could be a very important step for security in the Indo-Pacific (Indo-Pacific). ) for the following reasons.
First, because China has been successful in the South Pacific, Fiji's decision is an important step for the "Quad" (consisting of the US - Japan - Australia - India) to counterattack. Recently, China has been expanding its influence in the South Pacific. China has agreed to security agreements with a number of island nations in this region such as the Solomons. Therefore, the "Quad" has increased competition. For example, when Tonga faced a recent volcanic disaster, the US - Australia - Japan sent rescue ships to Tonga even though Tonga was far from their home country. And when Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) needed a Covid-19 vaccine, India sponsored it. During the recent visit to PNG by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two sides signed a defense cooperation agreement with PNG. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework also includes Fiji.
Second, the new developments surrounding Fiji's decision may affect the situation in the Taiwan Strait. Over the past time, Beijing has persuaded the South Pacific countries to change their diplomatic stance towards Taiwan. Solomon and Kiribati ended official diplomatic relations with Taipei and established relations with Beijing. This is an area where many countries have official relations with Taiwan. If Taiwan loses official diplomatic relations with other countries, then when China uses force to unify Taiwan will become an internal matter, not an international one.
Third, this incident in Fiji is the first case where India has contributed to influencing the views of the South Pacific countries. In the "Quad" group, Australia is the most influential country in this region. But China's recent successful increase in influence shows that Australia's influence is not enough. Therefore, the US and Japan have made more efforts, but it is still not enough.
Recently, US President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit PNG. This should have been the historic visit of an American President to the South Pacific islands. But in the end, the visit was canceled (only Secretary of State Blinken went to PNG) because Mr. Biden had to prioritize the political agenda in the US. However, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi visited PNG. For PNG, Modi's visit saved the face of the country's leader. As a result, India's influence is growing.
Since 2014, India has hosted the Indo-Pacific Islands Cooperation Forum Summit and expanded its influence there. In 2021, India donated many vaccines to Fiji and PNG. Now, Fiji is changing its mind for India. Half of Fiji's population is of Indian ancestry. As such, India exerts influence through Indian connections.
Dr. Nagao affirmed: In the current context, India showing influence in the South Pacific is a welcome move for other members of the " Quad ".
Source: ThanhNien Newspaper