Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has sought to play down concern over China’s proposed deal with 10 Pacific nations covering policing, security and communications.
Former Kiribati president Anote Tong says the deal incorporates action on climate change – the Pacific’s biggest security concern – and has welcomed the Albanese government’s renewed focus on the issue.
Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also Fiji’s climate change minister, says it is “simply a proposal, nobody has signed on the dotted line”.
“With many of these things, you know, they will negotiate it and people do have discussions prior to that in the same way,” Sayed-Khaiyum told ABC RN Breakfast.
Tong told the programme he wasn’t sure how China would be able to reconcile its emissions output with the pledge, Sayed-Khaiyum thought the proposal was a positive start.
“If China is willing to discuss climate change, we would assume that they would be willing to maybe do more on climate change than they currently are doing.
“Our carbon footprint is almost negligible, but we still have made a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.”
Sayed-Khaiyum said it was critically important Foreign Minister Penny Wong was making the effort to visit Fiji within days of being sworn in.
He noted Fiji signed a partnership with Australia when Scott Morrison was prime minister and hoped to build on it further “and in particular with the Labor government’s commitment to climate change”.
Sayed-Khaiyum urged countries in the Pacific guard with a zeal the “serenity” of the region amid fears it could become the centre of a new contest between Beijing and the West.
“From Fiji’s part, we believe in adherence to international law. And they are the fundamental principles that guide our relationship with individual countries.
“And then there are major issues like climate change the other economic issues that are currently facing the Pacific and indeed many developing countries in the world.”
He said Fiji’s partner of choice would any “anybody that we are able to interact with in respect of those issues that I’ve just highlighted”.
“The fact that we have the foreign minister of Australia coming to Fiji, the fact that we’ve had other heads of governments come to Fiji, the fact that we have the Chinese foreign minister coming Fiji does not mean that there is any particular scheme that we’ve put in place to lure these people to Fiji.
“People do want to come and visit Fiji, they do make representations and then we make our assessment based on what representations are made to us.” said Sayed Khaiyum.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said on twitter, “Tomorrow, I’ll meet Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Penny Wong. Next Monday, I’ll meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
I’ve been asked about Fiji’s agenda. At all tables, what matters most is our people and our planet, as well as respect for international law” said Bainimarama.