Pacific Island nations will seek new, stronger ties with China this year, despite concerns from traditional allies, one of the region’s most senior diplomats has pledged.
In a speech this month in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Dame Meg Taylor, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, an intergovernmental body, said it was time to debate how to “collectively engage” with Beijing to gain access to its markets, technology, financing and infrastructure.
“Exploring opportunities for extending China’s Maritime Silk Road through our Blue Pacific could provide opportunities for creating regional infrastructure and access that could inspire new markets of trade between Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America,” she said.
The suggested pivot towards China comes amid reports that Beijing is ramping up pressure on the forum to formally embrace a One China policy and isolate Taiwan, an Indo-Pacific ally of the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Sources from two Pacific nations told Australia’s ABC that Chinese officials had tried to convince the PIF to accept that the Chinese Communist party is the rightful government of the democratic island of 23 million.
The move is provocative as the Pacific is one of Taiwan’s last strongholds of diplomatic support, where six nations – the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu and Palau – all formally recognise Taipei rather than Beijing.