Australia pledge to train in Pacific island defense as China plan rival encounter


An Australian flag is pictured at its embassy in Beijing, China January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

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SYDNEY, June 28 (Reuters) – Australia will set up a defense school to train Pacific island militaries, Canberra’s new Pacific minister has said, amid growing competition for security ties in the region and as China prepares for a rival meeting with the Pacific Islands next month. Forum.

Australia will double funding for aerial surveillance of the vast Pacific Islands fishing ground and provide funding to Pacific Islands to build more resilient infrastructure as sea level rise in the Pacific is expected to be four times higher than the global average, International Development and Pacific Minister Pat Conroy told a Pacific conference on Tuesday.

“The Australian government knows that the issue of security is inseparable from the issue of climate change,” he said in a video address to the conference in Fiji’s capital, Suva.

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At the Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Suva next month, regional leaders are expected to discuss China’s efforts to strike a trade and security deal with 10 Pacific island nations that have diplomatic ties with China.

A leaked version of the deal showed it covered fisheries and maritime security as well as police training. Read more

The forum includes Australia and New Zealand, which have expressed concern over the recent security deal between China and the Solomon Islands, as well as several nations that recognize Taiwan and not Beijing.

China, which is not a member of the PIF, is seeking to host a video meeting with the 10 nations it wants to sign to a multilateral pact on July 14, to coincide with the final day of the PIF leaders’ meeting, a source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters.

The political leadership dialogue scheduled by the Communist Party’s international department also coincides with the day when a statement is expected to be issued by the leaders of the forum. It is unclear whether the meeting with China will go ahead, after some nations were reportedly upset over the schedule.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters, but denied on Monday that its foreign minister would host a meeting.

Last year, a similar event was organized by the Minister of the Communist Party’s International Department.

Tensions between China and island states that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan were highlighted when Tuvalu’s foreign minister pulled out of a United Nations ocean conference on Monday after China prevented three Taiwanese members of the Tuvalu delegation to attend. Read more

Conroy said the Pacific Islands Forum had brought the region together for 50 years and was “the heart of Pacific regionalism”.

Ahead of the meeting, he outlined the new Australian government’s commitments to support the region, including an Australia-Pacific Defense School which would provide training for defense and security forces.

The promise, first made in the election, to double funding for aerial surveillance of the Pacific Exclusive Economic Zones would increase maritime security and recover US$150 million lost each year to illegal fishing, it said. -he declares.

Australia worked with Pacific island nations on a groundbreaking deal at the World Trade Organization this month to curb fishing subsidies, used by China’s deep-sea fishing fleet, that had encouraged unsustainable overfishing , did he declare.

“It will be good news for the Pacific Ocean environmentally – and it will be good news for Pacific countries economically,” he said.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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