China has proposed a plan to 10 Pacific Island nations to expand economic and security cooperation, which the US has expressed concern over.
Beijing has submitted a draft deal, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will discuss the proposal during a tour of the Pacific over the next week. He will visit seven countries China hopes will endorse the deal: Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, which recently signed a security pact with Beijing.
Wang will also hold virtual talks with the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia, three other potential signatories to the deal, known as the Common Development Vision.
According to a leaked draft of the deal obtained by The Guardian, China has proposed to double trade by 2025 compared to 2018, provide additional Covid-relief funds, send medical personnel to the islands, and to offer government scholarships to the region.
The security side of the agreement focuses on the training of police forces. The draft deal proposes to “expand law enforcement cooperation, jointly combat transnational crime and establish a dialogue mechanism on law enforcement capacity and police cooperation.”
In response to China’s plans, the US State Department accused Beijing of making “shadowy” deals. “We are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, nontransparent process,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Price claimed China “has a pattern of offering shadowy, vague deals with little transparency or regional consultation in areas related to fishing, related to resource management, development, development assistance and more recently even security practices.”
Beijing’s proposal is likely a reaction to the US efforts to boost cooperation in the Asia Pacific against China. Last year, the US has signed the AUKUS military pact with Australia and Britain that will give Canberra nuclear-powered submarines. The US has also expanded ties with the Quad, which announced this week during a summit in Japan a new maritime security initiative and infrastructure projects to counter China.
Also this week, President Biden announced from Japan a new trade deal for the Asia Pacific aimed at countering Beijing, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The IPEF includes the US and 12 other nations: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.