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Australia, New Zealand express wariness of Chinese influence in Pacific

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern for annual talks in Sydney on Friday, with both leaders sharing concerns about China’s push to expand its influence in the Pacific.

Mr Albanese said the Pacific region was in a period of strategic competition and that Australia wanted to remain the security partner of choice for its Pacific islands neighbours.

“Under Xi, China has changed its position. It is more forward leaning, it is more aggressive. Australia’s position is that we will continue to engage and we want to cooperate with China where we can. But we will stand up for Australian values when we must,” he stressed.

Great to see New Zealand PM @jacindaardern again at @The_ANZLF in Sydney.

We will work with businesses and governments across the Tasman to drive better paying jobs and to support free and open trade.

Working together, we can seize opportunities for our mutual benefit. 🇦🇺🇳🇿

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) July 7, 2022
“We have seen a more assertive position from China in our region. But whilst our position is that we… should not suddenly say to sovereign nations that they have to pick for whom their relationships are with, we are also very clear on our values and the way that we conduct those relationships,” New Zealand’s Ms Ardern said.

“It should be the Pacific priorities first and foremost. They should be free of coercion. There should be high-quality investment and infrastructure because that is what our region deserves. And finally, New Zealand is very clearly opposed to the militarisation of our region,” she emphasised.

Growing concern
China’s growing sway in the Pacific and the potential for militarisation in the region’s small island nations has fanned concern, particularly in Australia and New Zealand as well as their partner, the United States.

Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum countries gather in Fiji next week for an annual meeting at a time of growing concern in some countries about China’s influence, highlighted this year by a security pact with the Solomon Islands.

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