China’s foreign minister starts Pacific tour in the Solomons

Published on May 26, 2022 04:27 PM IST
Wang Yi ’s week-long tour, part of China’s new push to expand influence in the region, is being carefully tracked by regional powers Australia and New Zealand
Solomon Island's Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele (left) and Chief Protocole Walter Diamana (right) escorting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (centre) upon his arrival at the Henderson International Airport in Honiara. (AFP)
Solomon Island's Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele (left) and Chief Protocole Walter Diamana (right) escorting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (centre) upon his arrival at the Henderson International Airport in Honiara. (AFP)

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on Thursday arrived in the Solomon Islands at the start of an eight-nation tour amid concerns about Beijing’s rapidly expanding military and economic ambitions in the in the South Pacific region.

On his arrival in Honiara, the capital city of Solomon Islands, Wang told acting governor general John Patteson Oti that “it is expected that the bilateral ties will forge a high ground of win-win cooperation and become a paragon of mutual trust between China and the Pacific island countries”.

He told Otis that China will continue to uphold the spirit of mutual support and assistance of South-South cooperation, and help the Solomon Islands improve its people’s well-being and promote development and prosperity, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

China respects the Solomon Islands in developing friendly relations with all countries in the world, Wang also said.

Solomon Islands switched its allegiance from Taiwan, self-ruled island which Beijing considers a renegade region, to China in 2019.

In April, the two countries signed a security deal, which allowed Beijing to deploy Chinese police and military officers to protect its companies and personnel on the islands.

Wang, who is also state councillor,will also visit Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, as well as Timor-Leste.

Wang’s week-long tour, part of China’s new push to expand influence in the region, is being carefully tracked by regional powers Australia and New Zealand.

It comes two days after the leaders of the four Quad countries comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan met in Tokyo for an in-person summit, which Beijing saw as an effort to push back its own influence.

Australia, according to an Associated Press report, was scrambling to counter the Chinese move by sending its own foreign minister, Penny Wong, to Fiji to shore up support in the Pacific.

Wong has been on the job just five days following an Australian election and only just returned to the country on Wednesday night from the Quad meeting in Tokyo, the report said.

In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed western concerns suggesting Wang’s visit could spark a new “Cold War”.

“What I want to stress is that developing friendly and cooperative relations with Pacific island countries is a long-term strategic policy of China’s diplomacy,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at the regular ministry briefing.

“In developing relations with island countries, China adheres to the principles of mutual benefit, win-win results, openness and inclusiveness, does not seek any exclusive rights, and does not pose a threat to any third party, nor should it be interfered by any third party,” Wang added.

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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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