China proposes economic and security agreement to 10 Pacific nations

China proposes economic and security agreement to 10 Pacific nations
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a picture prior to meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS

A day after Joe Biden returned to the US from an Asia trip where he proposed the Indo-Pacific pact agreement, China is reportedly working on its own proposal to 10 Pacific nations that covers everything from security in the region to things like fishing and 5G.

A draft of the proposal shows, among other things, that China has an interest in training local Pacific police forces, developing joint plans for fisheries and building out regional internet networks. The proposal is the latest in a string of moves that increase the geopolitical tensions in the region.

The US wasn’t too crazy about the news, expressing concern that the process for these agreements can be rushed and saying that China has a habit of being nontransparent. At least one Pacific country and close US ally, the Federated States of Micronesia, also reportedly expressed concern about the proposal. President David Panuelo urged other Pacific nations to reject the suggested agreement because he feared it could spark a new “Cold War" between China and the West.

Key comments:

“We are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, nontransparent process,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters. He also said 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.”

“We need to respond to this because this is China seeking to increase its influence in the region of the world where Australia has been the security partner of choice since the Second World War," said the newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday to ABC News Breakfast.