Samoa PM says Pacific can deal with own security issues

Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said on Friday that Pacific security issues should and can be dealt by countries in the region but added that China remained an attractive economic partner given its size. "Everyone's interested in China -- they're a huge market, in purchasing power, and so forth," said Mata'afa in an interview with Reuters during her official visit to New Zealand.


Reuters | Updated: 17-06-2022 10:52 IST | Created: 17-06-2022 10:40 IST
Samoa PM says Pacific can deal with own security issues
Fiame Naomi Mata'afa Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said on Friday that Pacific security issues should and can be dealt by countries in the region but added that China remained an attractive economic partner given its size.

"Everyone's interested in China -- they're a huge market, in purchasing power, and so forth," said Mata'afa in an interview with Reuters during her official visit to New Zealand. China's growing influence in the Pacific region and the potential of militarisation in the small island nations largely scattered across the South Pacific has concerned neighboring Australia and New Zealand and the United States.

China's increasing influence was highlighted after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with Beijing earlier in the year. "We need as a region to deal with the (security) issue in the broader context of what we already have in place," Mata'afa said citing previous regional security agreements.

She said that an upcoming Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting would discuss whether more needed to be done on the security front so other island countries don't feel they need to look outside the region. The Forum represents 18 island states spanning the Pacific's three cultural and geographic groups of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Some members have diplomatic ties to Taiwan while others recognize Beijing.

Traditionally Australia and New Zealand have been the security and aid partners for island states, supplying development and disaster aid and military assistance when needed. Mata'afa said she understood the region was increasingly contested but that China has had a long presence in the region as a diplomatic and economic partner and "what I don't like is if there are elements of racism in the discourse."

She said the region was no longer just part of the "Blue Pacific" narrative but had been encapsulated in the much larger Indo-Pacific and needed to understand what that meant for the region and be given more of a voice. "Now America wants to essentially come back. And that's also, I think, heightened Australia and New Zealand's role and function," she said. "There's a whole shifting of geopolitical arrangements."

Mata'afa said for example South Pacific countries had not been consulted on the creation of AUKUS, a security grouping announced last year that includes Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and she felt they should have been. She said in recent meetings she had asked both New Zealand and Australian leaders whether as Pacific countries they keep in mind their Pacific family when discussing politics with countries such as the United States and China.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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