China’s foreign minister visits Tonga after Pacific islands delay regional pact

Samoa said that it did not have enough time to consider a sweeping proposal from China for a regional trade and security pact, and has urged fellow Pacific islands to stay united as big powers seek more sway in the region.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday (May 31) arrived in Tonga on a tour through the region where Beijing’s ambitions for wider security ties have caused concern among United States allies.

On Monday, a virtual meeting hosted by Wang in Fiji with counterparts from 10 island nations deferred consideration of a sweeping agreement proposed by China spanning policing, security, fisheries, data and a free trade zone.

Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa was among the island nation leaders who called for a delay, and wants major decisions on the region to go through the Pacific Islands Forum group, Samoan media reported on Tuesday.

“We have not made a decision as we did not have enough time to look at it,” Samoan news service Talamua quoted Fiame as saying.

Niue’s leader on Monday evening also issued a statement saying that more time was needed to consider “how the arrangement with China will support existing regional plans”.

A draft communique and five-year action plan had been sent by Beijing to the nations with diplomatic ties to China weeks in advance, but was leaked amid criticism that the deal would bind the nations closely to China and raise geopolitical tensions with the United States.

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