Sydney, Australia, June 2 (EFE).- Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong Thursday praised Samoa for rejecting the ambitious five-year multilateral plan of China that sparked security concerns from Australia and the United States over the stability of the strategic Pacific region.
“It was a very wise intervention,” Wong told reporters in a joint press conference with Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in Apia.
On a second visit to the Pacific since she took office on May 23, Wong referred to regional countries declining to sign the sweeping regional economic and security pact with China.
Pacific island nations Monday refused to accept the pact during a crucial virtual meeting of regional foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
Wong, who will also visit Tonga during her tour, was critical of the Chinese plan.
The new Australian government that assumed power after the May elections has launched a campaign to boost ties with the neighboring island nations to counter Beijing’s growing influence.
Prime Minister Fiami told reporters that the decision not to sign up to the pact was due to the lack of time to analyze it.
“It seemed a bit abnormal because the (Chinese) minister was here and there was this particular proposal that they were seeking regional agreement on,” Fiame said.
“You cannot have regional agreement when the region has not met to discuss it.”
There was no consensus among the Pacific countries that shelved the agreement China wanted to sign with the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Wang, who is in Papua New Guinea on the penultimate stop of his tour to the Pacific region, has said his country did not intend to engage in “geopolitical competition.”
The Chinese foreign minister has visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
He will conclude his 10-day long tour on Saturday with the final stopover in East Timor in Southeast Asia.
A security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands sparked the diplomatic tension in April.
The agreement shrouded in mystery has generated fears that China may establish military bases in this nation. Beijing and Honiara have denied it. EFE