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China shelves Pacific regional agreement

China has shelved its plan to sign a regional agreement with Pacific island nations.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been travelling to Pacific nations, and had planned to visit 10 countries in the two week blitz.

Mr Wang says China will instead release a position paper following a meeting with Pacific foreign ministers in Fiji on Monday.

“After meeting, China will release its own position paper on our own positions and propositions and cooperation proposals with Pacific island countries,” he said.

“Going forward, we will continue to have ongoing and in-depth discussions and consultations to shape more consensus on cooperation.”

Mr Yang also tried to disparage commentary about China acting nefariously in the region as it tries to increase its influence.

“Don’t be too anxious and don’t be too nervous,” he said.

“The common development and prosperity of China and all the other developing countries would only mean great harmony, greater justice and greater progress of the whole world.”

The wide-ranging deal was leaked last week and covered free trade and security cooperations, including areas such as police training, cyber security, maritime mapping and resource access.

Micronesia expressed opposition to the regional agreement according to a leaked letter, and had previously publicly expressed concern over the Sino-Solomons pact and what it would mean for the region’s security.

An official from Kiribati told Reuters the country wanted to focus on economic ties rather than a security deal.

Mr Wang says China will provide assistance to Pacific Islands without political strings.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says there remained a “consensus first” approach to regional agreements following the foreign minister’s meeting.

China’s ambassador to Fiji, Qian Bo, told reporters after the meeting, the draft communique and five year plan sent by China to Pacific nations would be shelved until an agreement was reached.

“”There has been general support from the 10 countries with which we have diplomatic relations, but of course there are some concerns on some specific issues,” he said.

“We have agreed these two documents will be discussed afterwards.”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong also visited Fiji at the end of last week after returning from the Quad meeting in Tokyo.

Australia and the United States expressed concerns about a Chinese security deal signed with the Solomon Islands and said any military base in the Pacific would be considered a “red line”.

The US has also stepped up its footprint in the Pacific, with its embassy in Solomons’ capital Honiara due to reopen.

Regional security and a more assertive China was one of the main focuses of the Quad meeting between the heads of Australia, the US, Japan and India when they met last Tuesday.

with Reuters

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