China signs new deal with Pacific nation
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded his visit to Samoa on Saturday, after holding a series of talks with top officials on issues of “mutual interest and concern” and signing an agreement on economic and technical cooperation.
“Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments,” the Samoa government said in a statement on Saturday night.
The Chinese delegation headed by Wang Yi paid a visit to the head of state, Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, and Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, before signing at least three official documents, including an “Economic & Technical Cooperation Agreement for projects to be determined and mutually agreed between the respective Countries.”
Few details emerged about the new deal, but the talks reportedly covered topics of regional “peace and security,” in addition to climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Samoa also praised Beijing as its key development partner in infrastructure, healthcare and agriculture projects, while the Chinese diplomat noted that both countries share “similar historical experiences and face common development tasks.”
“Under the current circumstance of unilateralism and hegemonic bullying, China is willing to consolidate unity and cooperation with developing countries including Samoa, jointly safeguard the legitimate rights of developing nations, and insist on true multilateralism,” Wang Yi said, according to the Foreign Ministry’s readout of the talks.
Wang’s trip follows the signing of a bilateral security pact with the Solomon Islands in April, which faced intense criticism from Australia and some of its Western allies. As part of the new diplomatic mission, the Chinese delegation once again visited the Solomons, as well as Kiribati and Samoa, before heading for Fiji.
In the meantime, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama held a “wonderful meeting” with Australia's top diplomat Penny Wong, who was dispatched on a rival charm offensive by the newly-elected government in Canberra.
“Fiji is not anyone’s backyard – we are a part of a Pacific family,” Bainimarama said on Twitter on Saturday.
Australia’s new Labor government has vowed to “step up” its own presence in the Pacific after making China a major campaign issue during the recent race. Penny Wong previously blasted the Scott Morrison government for weakness toward Beijing, saying the deal with the Solomons occurred under his watch and created “the prospect of a Chinese base less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia’s coastline.”
Chinese officials have repeatedly denied any plans for a military base on the islands. However, Beijing is seeking to offer “significant” economic and security deals to the Pacific nations, according to a draft document leaked to the press this week.