REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, SYDNEY — Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said the Pacific Islands should be a ‘zone of peace’, adding that he hoped the competition between the United States (US) and China in the strategic area would not develop into a military conflict.
Rabuka was speaking after attending a summit of several Pacific Island leaders, where climate change and regional security dominate the agenda. Leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia’s ruling FLNKS party met in Vanuatu on Thursday (24/8/2023).
The leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) have yet to publicly release the joint declaration on regional security signed at the summit. But Rabuka said discussions were focused on competition between the United States and China in the region.
“They are trying to polarize the Pacific into their own camps, so we have to be very sure that whatever we do, we have to take into account the collective need for the Pacific to be a zone of peace, a zone of non-aligned territory,” he said in a video statement released government of Fiji on Friday (25/8/2023).
“Hopefully it will not develop into a military conflict or military jealousy which will lead to a buildup of military or armed forces in the area,” he added.
The five countries, which are strategically located in the South Pacific and played an important role during the Second World War, are again at the center of a geopolitical contest. Among them, Solomon Islands has a security pact with China, Papua New Guinea signed a defense cooperation agreement with the US.
Meanwhile Fiji last week co-hosted an Indo-Pacific defense chiefs conference with the US, which was also attended by China.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishamel Kalsakau has faced a political backlash for signing a security deal with US ally Australia after some lawmakers feared it could anger China, the country’s biggest foreign debt lender.
Vanuatu’s Supreme Court will make a decision on Friday on whether a motion of no confidence against Kalsakau garnered enough support to oust him.
Rabuka said that concerns regarding the discharge of water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant were also discussed by MSG leaders. In Fiji, a protest march was held in the capital Suva on Friday against Japan’s dumping of water.
Source : REPUBLIKA