Sydney, Australia, Dec 13 (EFE).- Australia and Vanuatu signed a bilateral agreement on Tuesday to deepen their security ties in the Pacific amid the creeping influence of China.
“We’re deeply proud to be the Vanuatu principal security partner of choice,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said at a press conference in Port Vila, where she announced the agreement, which expands bilateral military cooperation, police and cybersecurity between the two countries.
Wong said Australia and Vanuatu are “two nations committed to democracy, accountability and transparency” and will ensure that “the agreement is made publicly available,” alluding to a deal signed in April between China and the Solomon Islands, which was negotiated opaquely and included the possibility of China sending in security forces to Honiara at its request.
“The Agreement cements our ability to work together across a broad range of security cooperation areas including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; policing, law enforcement and justice; defence; border security, human security; environment and resource security; biosecurity; cyber security; maritime safety and security; and aviation safety and security. It also enables strengthened information and assessment exchange,” said a government statement released afterwards.
Canberra has been trying to counter the growing influence of Beijing in the Pacific and regain the confidence of a region that has felt forgotten, especially in its demands for Australia to adopt measures to combat the climate crisis, one of its biggest security problems.
For this reason, the Oceanian country has launched several initiatives, such as the opening of an embassy in the Marshall Islands, while seeking to finalize a security treaty with Papua New Guinea and has provided or offered assistance to the Solomon Islands in police matters.
Wong began a new week-long tour of the Pacific on Monday alongside Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy and two opposition spokesmen, in which she will also visit Micronesia and Palau. EFE