Chinese foreign minister visits Kiribati, fishing grounds at risk

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — ChinaOn Friday, the foreign minister arrived in the remote Pacific nation of Kiribati, where the future of its vast fishing grounds is at stake.

Wang Yi’s planned four-hour visit is the second leg of his eight-nation tour. BeijingMilitary and financial ambitions in the South Pacific.

Kiribati closed its borders this year in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. But the Chinese government made a rare exception to allow Wang and his 20-member delegation into the country for face-to-face discussions.

At stake in Kiribati is the future of the Phoenix Islands Reserve, an ocean the size of California that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In November, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau announced the government’s plan to end a ban on commercial fishing that had been in place since 2015 and begin sustainable fishing in the area.

Anna Powles, a senior lecturer in security studies at Massey University in New Zealand, said she expected some fisheries agreements between the two countries. China And Kiribati, which will come from the king’s visit.

Bowers says ChinaFisheries, already dominant in the region, have offered to upgrade the Phoenix Islands’ airport runways and causeways.

“The worry is that this will essentially wipe out fish populations,” she said. “This will seriously damage fish stocks that are already under pressure.”

There are also concerns that any type of base for the Chinese commercial fishing fleet in Kiribati could also be used as an additional hub, she said. Beijingsurveillance activities.

The Kiribati president said Wang would visit his residence for bilateral discussions during his visit and highlighted the health protocols that had been put in place.

Maamau said in a statement that the Chinese delegation was required to undergo PCR testing prior to arrival and stayed there in a travel bubble, with everyone they came in contact with in Kiribati required to quarantine for a week after that — presumably including himself.

“The high-level state visit is an important milestone for Kiribati –China relations as it will strengthen and promote the partnership and cooperation between our two countries after the resumption of diplomatic relations in 2019,” Maamau said.

China Wang said that Wang’s trip to the region is based on the long-term friendly relations between the two countries Beijing and island nations.

A draft document obtained by The Associated Press showed Wang hoped to reach a deal with 10 small Pacific nations during his visit.The comprehensive agreement covers everything from security to fisheries, and at least one Pacific leader sees it as Beijing Seize control of the area.

Wang hopes the countries will ratify the pre-written agreement as part of a joint communiqué after a meeting with other foreign ministers in Fiji on May 30.

But Australia scrambled to counter the move on Thursday, sending its own foreign minister, Penny Wong, to Fiji to bolster its support in the Pacific.

In Fiji, Wong said it was up to each island nation to decide what partnerships they forged and what agreements they signed, but urged them to consider the benefits of sticking with Australia.

“Australia will be a partner with no strings attached or unsustainable economic burdens,” Wong said. “We are a partner that will not diminish Pacific priorities or Pacific institutions.”

On Friday, Huang met with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

China A security deal was signed with the Solomon Islands last month, a move that sent shockwaves around the world.

The agreement has raised concerns that China Troops could be sent to the island nation or even a military base not far from Australia.Solomon Islands and China Said there were no plans for a base.

During the 10-day visit, Wang Yi also plans to stop in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said on Thursday he had sent Wong to Fiji as Australia needed to “step up” its efforts in the Pacific.

“We need to respond to this because it is China Seeking to increase its influence in the world region, Australia has been the security partner of choice since World War II,” he told the ABC.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that in recent years, exchanges and cooperation between the two countries have Beijing The island nation continues to expand and is welcomed by the Pacific nations.

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