Editor’s note: This story was written by AP reporters Aileen Torres-Bennett and Nick Perry

SUVA, Fiji (AP) — China fell short on a bold plan to have 10 Pacific nations endorse a sweeping new agreement covering everything from security to fisheries as some in the region expressed deep concerns.

But there have been plenty of smaller wins for China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi as he continues an island-hopping tour of the region.

Wang was in Fiji to co-host a key meeting with the foreign ministers from the 10 island nations.

At an unusual news conference afterward, Wang and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama spoke for about 30 minutes and then abruptly left the stage as reporters tried to shout out questions. That left many details of what transpired at the meeting undisclosed.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, appears on stage at the Pacific Islands Foreign Ministers' meeting with Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Monday, May 30, 2022, in Suva, Fiji. (Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP)
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, appears on stage at the Pacific Islands Foreign Ministers’ meeting with Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Suva, Fiji. Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via AP/2022

But it was clear the nations hadn’t endorsed China’s plan.

“As always, we put consensus first among our countries throughout any discussion on new regional agreements,” Bainimarama said.

While there have been growing international concerns about Beijing’s military and financial ambitions in the region, many Fijians see a benefit in foreign investment wherever it comes from, so long as it uplifts the people.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Wang had hoped to get the 10 nations to endorse a pre-written agreement as part of a joint communique after the meeting.

But Wang was unable to get the consensus he’d sought.

David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, told other Pacific leaders he wouldn’t endorse the plan, warning them in a letter that it would needlessly heighten geopolitical tensions and threaten regional stability.

Panuelo called it “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes” and said it “threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best, and a World War at worst.”

During the news conference Monday, Wang listed some areas where the countries had been able to find agreement and said he’d keep working on others.

“After the meeting, China will release its own position paper on our own positions, propositions, and cooperation proposals with Pacific Island countries,” Wang said through an interpreter. “And going forward, we will continue to have ongoing and in-depth discussions and consultations to shape more consensus.”
___
Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.

Quality journalism takes time.

A story that takes fives minutes to read often takes days to report.
 
Quality journalism takes time and resources to produce, but with support from readers like you, Civil Beat can investigate issues and publish stories that are otherwise difficult to fund.
 
Become a donor and help support Civil Beat’s next investigation.

About the Author