Australia, New Zealand unite on PRC’s Pacific threat

Australia, New Zealand unite on PRC’s Pacific threat

The Associated Press

Australia and New Zealand are in lockstep in their policies toward the Pacific islands, where attempts by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) to grow influence are expanding, Australia’s new leader said in mid-June 2022.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first foreign leader to visit Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Australia, pictured, since he was elected May 21.

Australia, New Zealand and the United States have voiced concerns that a new Beijing security pact with the Solomon Islands could result in a Chinese military base being established in the Pacific island nation. The Solomon Islands and the PRC have denied that will happen.

“We’re in lockstep on the Pacific,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Ardern, working with our democratic neighbors.”

Albanese and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong flew to Tokyo within hours of being sworn into office for a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the regional security threat posed by the PRC.

Wong then flew to the Pacific islands for meetings with government leaders, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also embarked on a Pacific tour.

Wang failed to get 10 Pacific island nations to endorse a new agreement that would have covered everything from security to fisheries.

Ardern said many countries chose to continue economic relationships with the PRC rather than sign security agreements. “Let’s hear from the Pacific on these issues,” she said.

Albanese said Australia, the region’s biggest foreign aid donor, is being taken seriously by its neighbors after his administration promised greater action on greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the low-lying Pacific island nations consider climate change their most pressing and existential threat.

Albanese’s government has promised to reduce Australia’s emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, compared with the previous administration’s goal of about 27%.

New Zealand’s target by the end of the decade is 30%.

“The Pacific region has listed climate change as its No. 1 threat,” Ardern said. “I know with regards to New Zealand we have a lot more to do, but we welcome being joined on that journey by Australia.”