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How close is war in our region?

Fear is growing across the Pacific that international tensions could spillover into the region. Already Pacific countries have been dragged into the Russia – Ukraine war, while closer to home China is still talking up conflict with Taiwan, and recently tensions have risen between North Korea and Japan.

Increased presence of the United States and Australian military in the Pacific suggests that conflict may be a scenario which could come knocking in the Pacific.

The members of the Quad, especially the US and Australia, are building relations with the Pacific hoping that when the time comes, the Pacific nations choose their side.

Australia’s deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles has been on a Pacific tour signing defence deals and looking at ways to improve security as a ‘Pacific family’.

“We definitely don’t want it (conflict). The world we are in now is very strategically complex and there are many strategic challenges; as many as there have been since the second World War. And how we deal with those is not obvious as it is complex,” he said.

Australia's deputy prime minister Richard Marles speaking to media in Fiji. Picture Shalveen Chand
Australia’s deputy prime minister Richard Marles speaking to media in Fiji. Picture: Shalveen Chand

“The way forward……because of the increased threats due to climate change, I think this is the time for friends to be closer together. It is about the time the Pacific family thinks about how it provides security for its own Pacific family.

“We are very focused on building a collective security throughout the Pacific which is provided by the security family itself.”

According to Mr Marles, the global rules-based order is not only relevant to Eastern Europe, but to the Pacific as well. The Pacific is an area with relatively small populations across large, disparate geographic areas and according to Mr Marles, it is important to have international cooperation.

“International cooperation is at the heart of how so much of our government is done in the Pacific, and none of that can happen without a strong global rules-based order. That’s what underpins international cooperation,” he said.

US fleets during the RIMPAC exercise. Picture- US Pacific Fleet
US fleets during the RIMPAC exercise. The members of the Quad, especially the US and Australia, are building relations with the Pacific hoping that when the time comes, the Pacific nations choose their side. Picture: US Pacific Fleet

“We think it’s really important that nations of the world are standing up for that right now. It’s really important that we are doing that by providing support to Ukraine. A large country seeking to invade a smaller neighbour, not by reference to the rule of law, but my reference to power and might is not a position that can be allowed to stand, which is why it’s so important that we stand with Ukraine today.

“The kind of comments that we’ve heard from President Putin in respect of nuclear weapons is absolutely appalling. To us, it just makes it clear why it is so important that the world stands with Ukraine today.”

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While Australia and the US may have that line of thought, the Pacific has adopted a foreign policy which states ‘friends to all and enemies to none.’

The Pacific leaders have time and time again said that they would not be forced to choose a side and no one in the Pacific wants a war.

World War II may have been fought almost 80 years ago, but the effects still linger in the Pacific. Some countries are still feeling the effects of nuclear testing, which is still claiming Pacific lives.

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