China Wants 10 Pacific Nations To Accept Lopsided Deal
China wants 10 small Pacific nations to endorse a sweeping agreement covering everything from security to fisheries in what one leader warns is a "game-changing" bid by Beijing to wrest control of the region, Australia’s 9News reported.
Photo Insert: China's fishing fleet has been notorious for encroaching on the waters of other countries.
A draft of the agreement obtained by the Associated Press (AP) also shows that China wants to train Pacific police officers, team up on "traditional and non-traditional security" and expand law enforcement cooperation.
China also wants to jointly develop a marine plan for fisheries — which would include the Pacific's lucrative tuna catch — increase cooperation on running the region's internet networks, and set up cultural Confucius Institutes and classrooms.
Yet, China is notorious for breaching treaties and not delivering on promised investments, as what happened to the Philippines, which got only 5% of the committed investments.
China also mentions the possibility of setting up a free trade area with the Pacific nations. China's move comes as Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a 20-strong delegation begin a visit to the region this week.
Wang is visiting seven of the countries he hopes will endorse the "Common Development Vision" — the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. Wang is also holding virtual meetings with the other three potential signatories — the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
He is hoping the countries will endorse the pre-written agreement as part of a joint communique after a scheduled May 30 meeting in Fiji he is holding with the foreign ministers from each of the 10 countries.
But Micronesia's President David Panuelo has written an eight-page letter to the leaders of other Pacific nations saying his nation won't be endorsing the plan and warning of dire consequences if others do. Panuelo said in his letter that behind attractive words in the agreement like "equity" and "justice" are many worrying details.
Among other concerns, he said, is that the deal opens the door for China to own and control the region's fisheries and communications infrastructure. He said China could intercept emails and listen in on phone calls.
Panuelo said in his letter that the pact is "an intent to shift those of us with diplomatic relations with China very close to Beijing's orbit, intrinsically tying the whole of our economies and societies to them."
He warns the agreement would needlessly heighten geopolitical tensions and threaten regional stability. In his letter, Panuelo said the Common Development Vision was "the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes," and it "threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best, and a world war at worst."