Australia, New Zealand unite on China’s Pacific threat

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the first foreign leader to visit Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Australia since his election on May 21. in bilateral relations.

Australia, New Zealand and the United States have expressed concerns that Beijing’s new security agreement with the Solomon Islands could lead to the establishment of a Chinese military base there. Both the Solomon Islands and China have denied this happened.

Asked if Australia wanted New Zealand to do more to counter China’s rise in the Pacific, Albanese told reporters in Sydney: “We’re on our way to the Pacific.” “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Ardern, and working with our Democratic neighbors,” Albanese said.

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Albanese and his Secretary of State Penny Wong flew to Tokyo within hours of being sworn in to meet with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the regional security threat posed by China.

Wong then traveled from Japan to the Pacific Islands for meetings with government leaders while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also began a Pacific tour.

Wang has failed in a bold Chinese plan to persuade 10 Pacific nations to agree to a new comprehensive agreement that would cover everything from security to fishing. But he succeeded in concluding several bilateral agreements.

Ardern said many countries chose to pursue economic ties with China rather than sign security agreements.

“Let’s hear from the Pacific on these issues,” Ardern said.

Albanese said Australia, the region’s largest foreign aid donor, has been taken seriously by its neighbors since his administration promised greater action on greenhouse gas emissions. Many Pacific low-lying islands consider climate change to be the most immediate and present threat.

The previous government committed to reducing Australia’s emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Albanese government has promised to reduce emissions by 43 per cent.

Ardern said New Zealand was comforted by Australia’s larger ambition. New Zealand’s end-decade target is 30 per cent.

“The Pacific has listed climate change as its number one threat,” Ardern said. “I know in terms of New Zealand we have a lot to do, but we welcome Australia to join that journey.

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