Pacific defence in Canberra’s spotlight

Pacific defence in Canberra’s spotlight

France and Australia are renewing their focus on the Pacific, pledging to engage with the region in areas such as defense and addressing climate change.

Regional security where nations can make their own choices was discussed when defense and foreign ministers from the two nations met overnight in Paris.

Supply chain security, maritime security and safety as well as climate change were all on the agenda.

Defense Minister Richard Marles said Australia would work to deepen its security cooperation in the region and strengthen defense relations with nations such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga.

“Training is a real opportunity for France and Australia to work together to build the capability of the defense forces of Pacific Island countries,” he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia’s bid to host the COP31 climate talks in 2026 would increase its influence in the Pacific.

“Through this effort to host the Conference of the Parties, we want to work with the Pacific Island nations to raise their voices in the international forum on climate change,” she said.

“They bring to that discussion a very acute and existential understanding of what climate change means.”

Senator Wong also confirmed Canberra’s commitment to the regional forum, which was bolstered overnight after Kiribati confirmed it would rejoin the forum.

Kiribati left the regional body six months ago ahead of the first in-person leaders’ meeting since the pandemic began after raising concerns about the treatment of Micronesian countries within the forum.

President Taneti Maamau said he decided to rejoin the forum after a “fruitful, positive and successful bilateral meeting” with Fiji’s new leader.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka made it a diplomatic priority to convince Kiribati to rejoin the forum after he was appointed in December.

“The meeting focused on strengthening bilateral relations between Fiji and Kiribati and discussed restoring unity in the Blue Pacific family,” said Mr Maamau.

There has also been a focus on working in unity to promote regional cooperation as China tries to push its way into the region.

The next leaders’ meeting will be held in the Cook Islands in the middle of the year.

Kiribati’s withdrawal raised concerns about the country’s growing ties with China.

A report on aid to the Pacific revealed that while Chinese aid in the region is shrinking, Beijing is directing support to the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *