Canberra / Auckland – To counter the aggressive Chinese activities aimed at dominating the Pacific Ocean region, Australia and New Zealand have decided to sign a fresh security pact with the countries in the Pacific. The draft of the pact is ready and 18 nations will sign it during the ‘Pacific Islands Forum’ to be held in Nauru in the month of September. Sources indicate that the main objective of the pact is to strengthen the defence cooperation with countries in the Pacific region.
Since the last few years, China has initiated strong manoeuvres to increase its sphere of influence in the South China Sea and the East China Sea as well as in the Pacific Ocean region. Two major countries, namely the United States and Australia have taken cognisance of this and have initiated steps to stop China. The United States has increased its military movements in the region with more stress on naval patrolling.
Australia has changed the policy that it had adopted so far and has clarified that the Indo-Pacific region will henceforth be its main region of dominance. It has been observed that New Zealand has also started focusing on the Pacific region for the last few months. It had made an additional provision of $500 million in its budget presented in May, for increasing its influence in the Pacific region. It is said that this provision is a part of the ‘Pacific Reset Policy’ of New Zealand. Following this, the country has also published a ‘Strategic Defence Policy Statement’.
The statement clearly mentions the Chinese threat. New Zealand has expressed concern that the Chinese ambitions of regional expansion are challenging the traditional leadership and principles in the Pacific region. The Strategic Defence Policy Statement warns that the challenges to the Indo-Pacific security have increased and this is bound to affect the state of the country. New Zealand’s national security is directly connected to the Pacific region and it is also being predicted that in the near future, it will be difficult for both Australia and New Zealand to maintain their influence in the region.
Against this background, the indications given by Australia and New Zealand of joining hands to sign a security pact with the Pacific countries becomes important. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Australian Minister for International Development said that the objective of the new pact is to strengthen the defence cooperation amongst the Pacific countries. The Australian Minister also expressed confidence that the new pact will create the necessary framework to counter the new emerging threats in the Pacific region.
Before signing of this pact with the Pacific countries, Australia has been taking rapid steps to independently strengthen its cooperation with them. Only last month, Australia announced the signing of a defence treaty with Vanuatu, a country in the Pacific region. Following this, Australia is also funding the communications cable network project connecting the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
China who claims its dominance in the region by creating military bases on the artificial islands in the South China Sea is also attempting to dominate the Pacific countries through financial aids and by all other means possible. It was revealed two months ago that China had provided financial aid and loans to 8 island nations in the Pacific region to the tune of $2 billion. The Australian intelligence agencies had claimed that China was trying to build a military base in Vanuatu. There were also reports of China trying to interfere in Papua New Guinea using its financial strength a few days ago.
Therefore, there are indications that this pact to be signed between the 18 Pacific countries along with Australia and New Zealand will be a major step towards creating a deterrent for the Chinese ambitions. It has been revealed that besides Australia, other countries like India, France and Japan are also preparing to counter the Chinese domination in the Pacific region.