China, climate crisis top Pacific leaders’ summit agenda

Sydney, Australia, Jul 12 (EFE).- The growing influence of China and the impact of the climate crisis top the agenda for the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, whose leaders met Tuesday in Fiji under the shadow of Kiribati’s exit.

This summit of leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), held for the first time since 2019 and which concludes on Thursday, has gained international interest as a result of the April signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, as well as Beijing’s attempt to seal a similar joint agreement with 10 other nations in the region.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, of the two major Pacific powers, will participate, while United States Vice President Kamala Harris will speak via videoconference on Wednesday to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the region.

“The global geopolitical landscape is hotly competitive (…) we have seen this in our region over the past few months,” Fiji Prime Minister and forum chair Frank Bainimarama declared Tuesday in his opening speech, emphasizing that world powers are “clamoring to shape the world in their favor.”

In the speech, broadcast on the social media accounts of the Fijian government, Bainimarama highlighted the impact of the climate crisis in the Pacific, where rising water levels have shrunk the land and destroyed aquifers and crops.

The new government of Australia has included in its policy towards the region the concerns of Pacific nations about the climate crisis and sovereignty.

“We are here to listen and learn,” said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong in Suva, stressing that the climate crisis is the “number one national security, economic challenge that the region faces.”

The Solomon Islands, whose agreement with China has been harshly criticized by Australia, said that its pact with Beijing is a way to diversify its alliances to maintain its national security, especially in the face of problems arising from the climate crisis.

The forum is also facing weakening after the announcement of the withdrawal of Kiribati (which reestablished its diplomatic ties with China in 2019 to the detriment of Taiwan) due to internal disagreements over the appointment of the current secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Pacific Islands Forum brings together Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. EFE


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