Marles in China Pacific security talks

Australia is hailing a changing mood with respect to its relationship with China despite Beijing continuing to push security arrangements with Pacific nations.

Defence Minister Richard Marles met with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Feng in Cambodia for the second time since taking office.

The pair discussed reinstating military talks and open lines of communication between armed forces as well as security in the Indo-Pacific.

"There is a change in tone and mood in our exchange and that's important," Mr Marles said after the 45-minute meeting.

"I'm hopeful we can get things back to a better place, and dialogue with senior officials in defence is part of that."

Mr Marles also held bilateral meetings with counterparts from India, South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia on the sidelines of the ASEAN defence ministers' meeting.

He was then seated next to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at a dinner.

China is continuing to ramp up its security engagement with the region with its public security minister holding a meeting with diplomats and officials from Pacific island nations.

The Chinese embassy in Fiji called the first ministerial dialogue on police co-operation a success.

"China commits to deepen law enforcement cooperation with the (Pacific island countries) for the benefits of the region," it said in a Twitter post.

A picture posted on the embassy's Twitter page shows officials from China, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Some Pacific island leaders have called for all regional security deals to go through the Pacific Island Forum, which also includes Australia and New Zealand.

China was forced to water down a regional security proposal after its foreign minister visited eight Pacific nations individually touting a regional agreement.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham says the forum needed to be respected.

"We would also urge countries to recognise the principles of a Pacific first approach when it comes to security engagement and co-operation," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Chinese officials have also just completed a week-long training course with the Solomon Islands police force, teaching them arrest techniques and how to wield a baton.

"Through the training, the Chinese police, (Royal Solomon Islands Police Force) officers have been integrated into each other," trainer Wang Hu said.

Both Canberra and Honiara maintain Australia is the Solomon's security partner of choice.

Senator Birmingham said Chinese co-operation could be useful but needed to be transparent and in the best interests of all nations.

"Doing so in a way that respects particularly the priority Pacific nations have placed on working together in collaborative ways through the Pacific Islands Forum," he said.