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Wong back in the Pacific

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong surely knows diplomacy and realises the personal touch that has been missing from Australia to the Pacific nations.

This week she started her tour of the part of the Pacific that she is yet to visit as foreign minister. On her Micronesian tour, Ms Wong kicked off in the Marshall Islands to mark the 35th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. She arrived in Majuro on Wednesday night.

“This week I will travel to the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Nauru to further strengthen Australia’s ties with our Pacific family,” said Wong in a statement posted Wednesday afternoon on her official website.

While in the Marshall Islands she signed an agreement to begin airing the first Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio program on the government’s AM radio station in six years.

“We want to work together to make sure the region we share, the ocean we share, that is so much a part of your life – your lives and your culture, is a region that reflects our shared dreams of sovereignty, of peace, of stability, of respect – respect for each other and respect for the region,” said Ms Wong.

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong meets people in the Marshall Islands. Picture Penny Wong Facebook
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong meets people in the Marshall Islands. Picture: Penny Wong Facebook

“I was very honoured today to not only spend most of the day with my friend and colleague Minister Kabua, but also to meet the President, to be able to speak with students here today, to talk to those – some of those very passionate young people, young Marshallese about climate and I look forward to the events we have today, including, I’m told, I get to go on a boat, which seems be to a very Marshallese thing to do.

“One of the things we did today, which I think speaks to our desire to be closer, was to announce the provision or an agreement between our media and your state media, your radio, to provide greater content. I know how important radio is here in the Marshall Islands.”

Ms Wong then met with President David Kabua, Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua, and other leaders “to discuss climate action and enhance our security, environmental, cultural and economic partnerships.”

“Now that we face mutual crises such as climate change, such as geopolitical situations that put us in a precarious position, it is important that we hold each other’s hands, stand together and try to find solutions to improve the quality of life for people in the region, for people in the world,” said Foreign Minister Kabua.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong in the Marshall Islands. Picture Penny Wong Facebook
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong in the Marshall Islands. While in the Marshall Islands she signed an agreement to begin airing the first Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio program on the government’s AM radio station in six years. Picture: Penny Wong Facebook

Australia’s first resident Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Brek Batley said her trip to Majuro was significant as part of Australia’s commitment to the Pacific.

“This important trip is about enhancing our security, environmental, cultural and economic partnerships with the Marshall Islands,” said Mr Batley.

“It’s also about building stronger people-to-people links with Australia, which is the bedrock of any enduring relationship.”

Australia has been on point about their commitment towards the Pacific since the Labor Party came into power in June. They have shown a willingness to address climate change and this has led to a more receptive approach from the Pacific nations as well.

On the weekend she will be in Nauru where she will meet with newly elected president Russ Kun. She will also launch a new partnership with Nauru and the Australian Football League to support young athletes in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

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