China has told the United States to stop engaging in “geopolitical jostling” after Washington announced an enhanced partnership with Pacific island nations.
President Joe Biden last week hosted the inaugural U.S-Pacific Island Country Summit “a worsening climate crisis and an increasingly complex geopolitical environment”.
Biden also signed the U.S-Pacific Partnership alongside the leaders of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
The declaration of the partnership, which focuses on 11 key areas, said: “We recommit ourselves to working together in genuine partnership to address the mounting challenges of our time”.
China said while it has no problems with Pacific island nations engaging in cooperation with other countries as they see fit, it warned the United States against introducing “bloc confrontation”.
“I would like to emphasise China’s openness to the increase of normal exchange and cooperation between Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and countries interested in doing so,” Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters on Friday.
“That being said, PICs must not be viewed as chess pieces in any contest between major powers.
“We hope the U.S will genuinely support PICs in responding to climate change and realising development and revitalisation, instead of engaging in geopolitical jostling in the name of cooperation, still less introducing bloc confrontation to the Pacific Islands region.”
The declaration came as the United States launched its Pacific partnership strategy, where it was noted “the region faces urgent challenges”.
“Increasingly, those impacts include pressure and economic coercion by the People’s Republic of China, which risks undermining the peace, prosperity, and security of the region, and by extension, of the United States,” the strategy said.
But Mao claimed China has never engaged in economic coercion as she accused the United States of “vilification and denigration”.
“China never engages in economic coercion. In developing relations with PICs, China always adheres to the principle that all countries, big or small, are equal,” she said.
“We fully respect the sovereignty and will of PICs. We never attach any political strings or impose our will on anyone. We firmly reject the U. S’s vilification and denigration.”
China’s influence in the Pacific has been heavily scrutinised in recent months after it signed a security partnership with the Solomon Islands.
The new relationship between the two countries led to fears China would establish a military base on Australia’s doorstop, although Beijing and Honiara have denied that will be the case.
Mao claimed China’s relationships with Pacific nations are “transparent” and come with “no political strings attached”.
“China attaches high importance to developing relations with PICs. We always adhere to the principle that all countries, regardless of size, are all equal. We fully respect the sovereignty and will of PICs,” she said.
“Our cooperation is open, transparent and above-board with no political strings attached. We never impose our will on others or target any third party.
“Our cooperation has been warmly welcomed by PICs and can stand the test of time and history. We will not engage in geopolitical jostling in the name of cooperation.”
Speaking at the summit, Biden said it is crucial to maintain peace and security in the Pacific, adding “the world depends” on it.
“Today, security in the Pacific and for the Pacific Islanders remains as critical as ever to us and I hope to you as well,” he said.
“The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security and the security of the Pacific Islands. And I really mean that.
“So, this summit is also about deepening our enduring commitment to each other and our shared future.”
The President also announced US$810 million will be spent on US programs to improve the lives of Pacific islanders.
SOURCE: SKY NEWS/PACNEWS