Pacific Islands

From left to right, President of the Marshall Islands David Kabua, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, US President Joe Biden, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau, Tuvaluan Prime Minister Kausea Natano, and Premier of Niue Dalton Tagelagi stand for a group photo following the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit, at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, on 25 September 2023. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Geopolitical tug of war an opportunity for Pacific Island nations

Concerns about a stronger Chinese engagement — following the unexpected security pact between China and the Solomon Islands in 2022 — rattled the US and its regional allies, Australia and New Zealand, into stepping up their engagements with the Pacific Island countries. Not unexpectedly, these island countries now find themselves beneficiaries of the competition for geopolitical influence even as they try to avoid being drawn into it.
US President Joe Biden (centre), British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) hold a press conference during the AUKUS summit on 13 March 2023, at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego California. (Jim Watson/AFP)

If at first you don’t succeed: Australia woos the Indo-Pacific on AUKUS

Australia made extensive diplomatic overtures to Asia prior to its March update about the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine arrangement with the UK and the US, note researchers Blake Herzinger and Alice Nason. Canberra appears to have gained some traction in the region, but it should not rest on its laurels.
Fiji's new prime minister and People's Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka (centre) leaves after the first sittings of the newly elected parliament in Fiji's capital city Suva on 24 December 2022. (Leon Lord/AFP)

Fiji an important regional power broker as great power politics intensifies in the Pacific

The recent elections in Fiji resulted in the first democratic transition since 2014 after three opposition parties narrowly voted for a pro–Western coalition government with Sitiveni Rabuka as the new prime minister. The election outcome also has geopolitical implications considering the growing US-China confrontation in the Pacific and the renewed US re-engagement in the South Pacific with a focus on Fiji.
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) arrives at the convention center with Chief of Malvatumauri National Council Willie Plasua (second from left) after a meeting with the Vanuatu President Tallis Obed Moses in Vanuatu capital city of Port Vila on 1 June 2022. (Photo by ginny stein / AFP)

China gearing up for intense competition in the Pacific

China knows it needs to soften its tone as the US, Australia, New Zealand and others bristle at its interest in the Pacific island countries. The traditional powers are stepping up their game as well. But whether it likes it or not, the region will likely see greater power tussles as the strategic imperatives are simply too great for China to back off completely.
Locals sit on a wall situated on the foreshore of the harbour in the Fiji capital of Suva, 24 August 2014. (Lincoln Feast/File Photo/Reuters)

The South Pacific Ocean: Another battleground for China-US competition?

While the South Pacific is looking to be an emerging arena of greater competition with China on one side and the US and its allies on the other, US-based academic Hong Nong also sees that areas of common interest could still drive cooperation between them, depending on which direction the pendulum swings.
An undated handout photo released on 29 March 2022 by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) shows China Police Liason Team officers training local RSIPF officers. (Handout/RSIPF/AFP)

Will China-Solomon Islands security cooperation bring new tensions to the South Pacific?

The new policing and security agreements between China and the Solomon Islands have neighbouring countries such as Australia and New Zealand anxious about the potential militarisation of the region. Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong warns that small island nations in the South Pacific must be careful about choosing sides so as not to become pawns in great power competition.