Rivalry between China and Western nations for influence in the Pacific is intensifying. This week French President Emmanuel Macron and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are touring island nations to push back against aggressive outreach by China in countries such as the Solomon Islands.
Macron flew into Noumea this week and warned on Wednesday that the push for independence in New Caledonia could mean “a China naval base tomorrow,” according to a report by ABC, the Australian broadcast network, which noted that Blinken was opening a new US embassy in Tonga on a separate tour of the region, while US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is visiting Papua New Guinea. Macron will head to Vanuatu next, but the Americans will fly to Brisbane shortly for a ministerial meeting with Australia.
The biggest concern appears to be the flip-flop lobbying and erratic remarks from Solomon Islands leader Manasseh Sogavare, who returned from a week-long visit to Beijing last week claiming his country was struggling financially because traditional donors such as Australia had withdrawn millions in financial support – a claim strongly denied by Canberra. The United States recently re-opened an embassy in the Solomons and Kiribati, and second summit with Pacific island leaders is planned in the US later this year.
Read the full report: ABC News.