Map shows 'confronting' China reality facing Australia

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·Associate News Editor
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As China's foreign minister Wang Yi embarks on his tour of a host of Pacific Island nations, fears continue to grow over what it all means for the region.

While Beijing's controversial security deal with the Solomon Islands sent shockwaves through Australia, it appears they're only just getting started.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Mr Yi's visits to Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste would "enhance political mutual trust".

And now a draft communique and five-year action plan obtained by Reuters indicates Beijing has intentions to set up deals that involve security cooperation with as many as 10 Pacific Island nations.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi listens during a meeting in Manila, Philippines January 16, 2021. Francis Malasig/Pool via REUTERS
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a blitz tour of the Pacific, with Beijing understood to be seeking new deals similar to its controversial Solomon Islands agreement. Source: Reuters

Mr Wang downplayed suggestions China's Pacific push could trigger a Cold War between the East and West, saying such remarks were "sensational".

However, Dr Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Australia "should be very worried" about China's ambitions in the region.

While questions remain over how successful China can be in luring multiple Pacific Island nations into deals, a map created by Indo-Pacific expert Cleo Paskal paints a picture of what Australia could potentially be facing in the years to come if indeed the goal of Mr Wang's trip is to lure prospective nations.

Paskal, a non-resident senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said it appeared China was attempting to build a "first island chain" to "hem in" Australia.

Albanese says Australia 'needs to respond'

Head of ANU National Security College, Professor Rory Medcalf said the map was "confronting".

"If China’s ambition is to dominate those states and their resources, then it’s bad news for sovereignty, regional security and the Pacific’s preference to keep great power rivalry at bay," he said on Twitter.

Beijing's desire for a greater stronghold in the region is nothing new. The South China Sea has been a highly-contested area that has triggered ongoing disputes with China's neighbours.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who heavily criticised the Morrison government over the Solomon Islands deal in his election campaign, said he would act to prevent such a sweeping deal on Australia's doorstep.

Anthony Albanese says Australia must react to China's advancements in the Pacific. Source: Getty
Anthony Albanese says Australia must react to China's advancements in the Pacific. Source: Getty

"We need to respond to this because this is China seeking to increase its influence in the region of the world where Australia has been the security partner of choice since the Second World War," Mr Albanese told ABC News Breakfast.

Penny Wong arrives in Fiji

Foreign Minister Penny Wong arrived in Fiji on Thursday to deliver the Albanese government's position in what is becoming a strategic struggle with a relentless Beijing.

Professor John Blaxland, from the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, told ABC radio it was evident China were attempting to "score some points quickly before the Albanese government gets its feet under the table".

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