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Diplomatic duel and media farce

The Pacific is certainly in focus now. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has begun his tour of the Pacific starting with the Solomon Islands and then hopping to ten countries within eight days.

On Mr Wang’s travel itinerary is Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Fiji. The so called historic tour of the Pacific by China started on May 26 and is ending on June 24.

While China has outlined this unprecedented tour, Australia’s newly elected Foreign Minister Penny Wong has also arrived in Fiji.

Australian PM Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Picture: Anthony Albanese Twitter

Ms Wong was sworn in just after the elections and then flew to Tokyo for the Quad conference. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Ms Wong arrived in Australia on Wednesday.

Ms Wong has met with Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. The Quad conference concluded with the announcement that the United States, India and Japan would provide more than US$50 billion for the next five years for infrastructure investment and aid.

Prior to being elected, Ms Wong had been critical of the way Australia had failed the Pacific. The Australian Labor government had stated they would focus more on the Pacific.

Media farce

Mr Wang’s visit to the Solomon Islands is to seal the deal the world has been keenly speculating about.

Following the meeting with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Mr Wang and his Solomon Islands counterpart Jeremiah Manele are due to address the media.

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According to guidelines given for the press conference, the Solomon Islands government has only invited the two mainstream newspapers from the nation and its main broadcaster. The Chinese government media will also be present.

According to a correspondent in Honiara, all media outlets are allowed only one question. He said international media and their correspondents were not invited.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wan Yi. Picture: Chinese government Twitter

He said the Solomon Island Media Association had called on the mainstream media to boycott the press conference but that has not happened.
According to a Solomon Islands Government statement, below are the 10 key bilateral deals that would be agreed upon.

1. Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands on the Visa Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic, Official/Service and Public Affairs Passports
2. Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands Relation to Civil Air Transport
3. Memorandum of Understanding on Health Cooperation between the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services of Solomon Islands
4. Memorandum of Understanding between Deepening Blue Economy Cooperation between the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration of Solomon Islands
5. Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology of the Solomon Islands and the Ministry of Emergency Management of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in the Area of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response
6. Exchange of letters between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands that covers 98 per cent of the tariff line
7. Handover certificate between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands on anti-COVID materials donation
8. Exchange of letters between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands on China aid- National Referral Hospital Comprehensive Medical Center Project
9. Agreement on the establishment of sister city relationship between Jiangmen City, Guangdong province, the People’s Republic of China and Honiara city, Solomon Islands
10. Agreement on economic and technical cooperation between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the government of Solomon Islands

Kiribati next

Mr Wang Yi will be making a stopover in Tarawa, Kiribati for four hours before moving onto the next leg of his tour.

Children of Tabueran Atoll, Line Islands Group of Kiribati with crew members of Air Kiribati. Picture: Mytagimoucia Twitter

It is believed that a similar deal which the Solomon Island has agreed upon will be offered to Kiribati. China has already clarified that the agreements are not to make military bases but increase diplomatic cooperation.

The President of Kiribati Taneti Maamau said they will be hosting an official state visit for a team of high-level officials from the Government of the People’s Republic of China who will arrive in Tarawa on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2022.

Kiribati President Tanei Mamaau. Picture: PIF

“The visiting delegation will be led by State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, His Excellency Wang Yi and his team who will visit Kiribati as part of China’s High-level milestone visit to the Pacific,” he said in a statement.

“Apart from the delegation, three medical specialists will also be arriving in Kiribati to assist the Ministry of Health and Medical Services by sharing knowledge on their field of specialization while at the same time assessing the health system in Kiribati.”

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