US, Australia’s recent moves in South Pacific eye new small clique to contain China
Published: Jun 18, 2022 12:18 AM
Australia US Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Australia US Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

With recent intensified moves in the South Pacific together with Australia, the US is eyeing another small clique in the South Pacific region to contain China following previous moves to organize AUKUS and expand NATO, experts said as Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong kicked off a visit to the Solomon Islands on Friday.  

Media said that Wong had addressed a security pact between the Solomon Islands and China signed in April during talks with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, but no details were released. 

Sogavare has sought to reassure Australia there will not be a military base in the Pacific island nation as a result of its security pact with China, media reported.

"Australia's view remains that the Pacific family should be responsible for our security and the Pacific family is more than capable of providing that security," she told reporters at a press conference.

China has repeatedly criticized reactions from countries such as the US and Australia over the pact. 

Chinese experts also said Australian officials' wincing at the pact exposes its lingering colonial myth and coercive diplomacy. Australia wants to play the role of the head of the so-called Pacific family, but the colonial era ended long ago. It has no right to judge other regional countries' domestic affairs, experts noted.  

According to the Australian foreign ministry's website, Wong had vowed to deliver up to 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Solomon Islands under Australia's pledge to support the country to administer COVID-19 vaccines to protect its citizens.

No more details have been officially released so far. But Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, estimated that Wong would promise other petty favors to the Solomon Islands like vaccine donation.

The epidemic and vaccination is not an urgent issue for the Solomon Islands, so such acts have more symbolic than practical significance as they simply flaunt Australia's desire to be closely involved in various aspects of the Solomon Islands. Public health, for example, is an area in which Australia wants to demonstrate its strength and influence, Chen told the Global Times on Friday.

Before visiting the Solomon Islands, Wong met with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington on Thursday where regional security, climate change and labor mobility were on the agenda. 

The move came three days after Mahuta's video call with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday.

Chen warned that by including New Zealand and the Solomon Islands in the same visit, almost immediately after Wang Yi and Mahuta's constructive video call, Australia is obviously making efforts to draw over New Zealand to its side to join the "arena of contestation" in the South Pacific region against China.

Australia's moves aim to serve the US' Indo-Pacific strategy, analysts pointed out. 

Wong's visit to the Solomon Islands is her third one to the South Pacific region less than a month after she took office, along with recent frequent visits by US officials to the region that observers said target China's boosting cooperation for development and security with the island nations in the South Pacific.

On Thursday, Kurt Campbell, a senior official for Asia in the US national security council, said at a forum that the US planned to propose a new initiative to address issues in the Pacific next week as it scrambled to offset China's thrust into the region, media reported.

Washington is "stepping up across the board" its engagement with Pacific island nations to address their concerns over everything from relations with Washington to illegal fishing, climate change and regional security, 

Proposing the alleged "new initiative" shows the US is aiming to set up one more small cliques in the Asia Pacific to contain China just like its previous moves to establish AUKUS, and revive Quad, Chen said.

The US is playing a deceitful trick to discuss so-called issues of concerns of the South Pacific Island countries (PICs) as it would start another round of scare and smear campaign and fabricate fake news and falsehoods about illegally fishing and biodiversity so as to impede cooperation between the PICs and China in areas such as blue economy and environmental protection, Chen warned.