'Australian prime minister Scott Morrison pledged to spend £1.1 billion in the Pacific to shore up ties with small island states threatened by China’s growing influence in the region.
In efforts to secure Australia’s interests in “our patch”, Mr Morrison said he would boost military engagement with Pacific forces to put the region "front and centre" of Australia's foreign affairs.
The effort will also see a push of soft power infrastructure programme to fund local transport, water and other projects, while Australia will create diplomatic postings in tiny Pacific nations such as Palau and Niue, which, respectively, have populations of about 21,000 and 1,600.
“It’s time to open, I believe, a new chapter in relations with our Pacific family,” Mr Morrison said in a speech at a military base in Queensland.
“Australia has an abiding interest in the Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically.”
The announcement follows concerns about China’s expanding ties and loans in the region, which have raised fears that small nations could fall into a debt trap and become subservient political pawns to Beijing.
Chinese loans in the Pacific region have increased in recent years, but remain much lower than Australian aid in that part of the world.
China shows no signs of slowing its overseas investments and aid as Beijing expands its global influence. On Thursday, El Salvador said China had pledged $150 million (£115 million) in aid to fund social and technological projects.
Asked whether he was concerned about China’s expansion in the Pacific region, Mr Morrison said only: “We are getting on with business with China. That’s what we’re doing.”'
Read more: Australia to spend £1 billion of taxpayer dollars to counter China influence in Pacific
Did you like this article?
Thank you for your vote!
15 April 2019
Cardinal George Pell: 36 Australian journalists and publishers face contempt charges over child sex abuse case
13 April 2019
Australian Labour candidate Melissa Parke pulls out over Israel comments. Australia - owned by Israel
From our advertisers
11 hours ago
Macron's polls rise to highest level since yellow vest revolt as French approve his handling of Notre-Dame fire
19 hours ago
The “Deal of the Century”: The US Wants To Enable Netanyahu to “Officially” Occupy the West Bank
21 hours ago
One last hit from the collusion crack pipe? Journalists turn on Attorney General Barr without evidence
From our advertisers