Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will embark on a 10-day trip to the Solomon Islands and seven other Pacific Island nations this week to boost Beijing’s alliances with the nations.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Wang would visit the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Timor Leste from May 26 to June 4.
He will also pay a “virtual visit” to Micronesia upon invitation and host the second China-Pacific Island countries foreign ministers’ meeting in Fiji, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
Wang said that the trip will “further enhance the political mutual trust between China and these countries, elevate our cooperation in various sectors to a new level,” and “bring new vitality to the long-term development of bilateral relations.”
“During the visit, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will have separate talks with foreign ministers of these countries and meet with heads of state and heads of government,” he noted.
The Chinese ambassador to the Solomon Islands said that Wang would visit Honiara with “a nearly 20-member delegation” and sign “a number of key bilateral agreements” with the Solomons’ government.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Monday that Wang’s visit to the Solomon Islands will mark “a milestone” in bilateral relations, describing China as “one of Solomon Islands’ key development partners.”
The Solomon Islands signed a security deal with Beijing last month, which other nations feared would allow China to establish a military base 1,700 kilometers off the Australian coast and destabilize the Indo-Pacific.
Micronesia had previously appealed to the Solomons government to scrap its deal with China, fearing that the Pacific islands would become the “epicenter of a future confrontation between these major powers,” given its role as a battleground during World War II.
Meanwhile, speculations arise that Beijing may be attempting to enter into similar deals with other Pacific island nations amid President Joe Biden’s trip to Asia to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the region and counter China’s dominance.
Beijing has begun talks with Kiribati and “at least one more Pacific island country” for an agreement, the Financial Times reported on May 21, citing an unnamed U.S. official.
China said last year that it was planning to upgrade an airstrip and bridge on one of Kiribati’s islands, Kanton, which the Kiribati government said was “purely initiated for civilian use,” according to Reuters.
Kanton is located 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) southwest of Hawaii, where the U.S. military bases are situated. Any substantial build-up there would give China a presence in territory that has been firmly aligned with the U.S. and its allies since World War II.
China has increased efforts to expand its influence in the Pacific, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which other nations, including the United States, have criticized as a “debt trap” to smaller nations.
Four Pacific Island nations—the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Tuvalu—have recognized Taiwan as a sovereign nation. In November 2019, Tuvalu said that it rejected offers from China to build artificial islands to help it cope with rising sea levels.
Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told Reuters that his nation was working on setting up a group uniting Taiwan’s remaining four allies in the Pacific. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to conquer it by force if necessary.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times