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Pacific News Minute: China is attempting to muscle in on Pacific Islands gathering

Pacific Islands China fiji suva wang yi
Aileen Torres-Bennett/AP
A barricade blocks the front of the Chinese Embassy in Suva, Fiji, Friday, May 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Aileen Torres-Bennett)

China is making a bold attempt to muscle in on the Pacific's most important political gathering. The country wants to meet with the region's foreign ministers on the same day they will all be in Fiji for the Pacific Islands Forum.

Beijing has invited ministers from 10 Pacific Island states whom it has diplomatic relations with to a virtual meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on July 14, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

That date is also the final day of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji's capital Suva.

The PIF leaders' meeting is important this year because it’s their first in-person gathering since the pandemic hit in 2020.

Pacific Island foreign ministers last met the Chinese minister just one month ago, when he hosted them for a virtual meeting from Fiji during a Pacific visit.

Wang was forced to postpone a regional economic and security pact with the Pacific Island countries when some countries raised concerns after the meeting.

Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo warned the deal could increase political tensions and undermine the sovereignty of the Pacific. Samoa's Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa suggested the process had been rushed.

The controversy comes as strategic competition continues to intensify in the region.

In late June, Australia signed up to a new "Partners in Blue Pacific" initiative with the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and New Zealand.

The five countries are vowing to coordinate their efforts in the region more effectively to tackle a range of issues ranging from climate change to illegal fishing.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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