China signs deal with Samoa to strengthen ties

The deal signed between visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa promised “greater collaboration” between the two countries.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi holding a meeting with Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa after agreements signing ceremony between China and Samao in Apia. (AFP)
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi holding a meeting with Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa after agreements signing ceremony between China and Samao in Apia. (AFP)
Updated on May 29, 2022 04:36 AM IST
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By, Beijing

China and the island nation of Samoa on Saturday signed a deal to strengthen ties amid a flurry of diplomatic activity across a cluster of remote islands in the Pacific Ocean where Canberra, Washington and Beijing have begun to campaign and jostle for influence.

The deal signed between visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa promised “greater collaboration” between the two countries.

Details of the deal remain unclear.

An official Samoan government statement said Wang and Mataafa had met and discussed “climate change, the pandemic and peace and security”.

Wang’s ongoing eight-nation Pacific islands tour has sparked concerns among amid concerns among allies, the US, and regional power Australia that Beijing is aggressively pushing small islands in the Pacific to be part of its expanding sphere of military and economic influence with the ultimate goal of establishing a permanent naval presence in the region.

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was sworn in on Monday, said on Saturday that he had a “comprehensive plan” for the Pacific, which includes a defence training school, support for maritime security, a boost in aid and re-engaging the region on climate change.

“We will be proactive in the region, we want to engage,” Albanese was quoted as telling reporters in Sydney on Saturday, according to agency reports.

The Samoan government statement said that it had signed a deal on “economic and technical cooperation agreement…Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments”.

On Friday, Wang arrived in the Pacific nation of Kiribati for a four-hour stopover where he met President Kiribati President Taneti Maamau.

The first two countries Wang has visited in this trip were both former diplomatic allies of Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is its territory. Both nations switched their allegiance to China in 2019.

The Chinese minister Wang is next headed to Fiji, which, in a setback to Wang’s whirlwind diplomacy in the region, has announced that it had signed into the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), backed by the four-member Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia.

Fiji joined Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the US to become IPEF’s newest member.

The economic framework -- as part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy -- was announced by US President Joe Biden on Monday during his visit to Tokyo, where he met the Quad leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It centres on four pillars: fair and resilient trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption. Member countries able to choose to participate only in certain components of the framework.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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Friday, July 01, 2022