CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister said Friday after a meeting with his New Zealand counterpart that the two nations stand together in their policies toward the Pacific islands, where China’s influence is growing.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the first foreign leader to visit Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Australia since his election on May 21. in the bilateral relationship.
Australia, New Zealand and the United States have expressed concern that a new Beijing security pact with the Solomon Islands could lead to the establishment of a Chinese military base there. The Solomons and China have both denied that this is happening.
Asked if Australia wanted New Zealand to do more to counter China’s rise in the Pacific, Albanese told reporters in Sydney: “We are in tune on the Pacific.”
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Ardern, to working with our Democratic neighbors,” Albanese said.
Albanese and his Foreign Minister Penny Wong flew to Tokyo hours after being sworn in for a meeting with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the threat to the regional security posed by China.
Wong then flew from Japan to the Pacific Islands to meet with government leaders while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also embarked on a tour of the Pacific.
Wang failed in a bold Chinese plan to get 10 Pacific nations to endorse a sweeping new deal that would have covered everything from security to fisheries. But he managed to land several bilateral agreements.
Ardern said many countries have chosen to pursue economic relations with China rather than sign security agreements.
“Let’s listen to the Pacific on these issues,” Ardern said.
Albanese said Australia, the biggest donor of foreign aid to the region, was taken seriously by its neighbors since its administration promised greater action on greenhouse gas emissions. Many low-lying Pacific islands see climate change as the most pressing and existential threat.
The previous government pledged to cut Australia’s emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. The Albanese government has pledged a 43% reduction.
New Zealand have been encouraged by Australia’s greater ambition, Ardern said. New Zealand’s target by the end of the decade is 30%.
“The Pacific region has ranked climate change as its number one threat,” Ardern said. “I know that when it comes to New Zealand we still have a lot to do, but we are delighted to be joined on this journey by Australia.”
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