China and 10 Pacific Island nations on Monday failed to reach “consensus” on a region-wide deal proposed by Beijing.
“As always, we put consensus first among our countries throughout any discussion on new regional agreements,” said Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
He was speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, after co-chairing the second meeting of China and Pacific Island countries.
Beijing had proposed a region-wide deal that covers free trade, police cooperation and disaster resilience.
Wang told the news conference: “After meeting, China will release its own position paper on our own positions, propositions and cooperation proposals with Pacific Island countries and going forward, we will continue to have ongoing and in-depth discussions and consultations to shape more consensus on cooperation.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping had sent a written statement to the meeting saying Beijing and Pacific Island countries “have enjoyed a time-honored friendship that crosses mountains and oceans.”
Introducing China as “important bilateral partner,” for the Pacific Island nations, Bainimarama said: “I look forward continued engagements.”
Wang is on a 10-day tour to South Pacific nations and Fiji is his fourth stop, following visits to Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa.
“Fiji will continue to seek fertile ground for our bilateral relationship. The challenges our people face will only intensify until collective solutions rise to meet them,” Bainimarama said.
In a rapidly changing world, Bainimarama said, Wang and his delegation “brought productive cooperation to Fiji.”
Wang in his comments termed his visit to Fiji “highly successful.”
Responding to what he called “anxiousness and nervousness” of some countries regarding China’s policy on Pacific Island nations, Wang said: “China stands with the developing world, in particular small and medium-sized countries.”
“Don’t be too anxious and don’t be too nervous, because the common development and prosperity of China and all the other developing countries would only mean greater harmony, greater justice and greater progress of the whole world,” the Chinese foreign minister said.
Wang said China was not just supporting the development of Pacific Island countries but also of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
His comments came in the backdrop of criticism by Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the US over China’s security deal with the Solomon Islands. The two countries have, however, moved forward with the deal.
On bilateral relations with Fiji, Wang said: “China appreciates Fiji’s commitment to one-China policy.”
He said China and Fiji will enhance cooperation in economy, trade, agriculture, fishery, tourism, civil aviation, education, law enforcement and emergency management “in the framework of Belt and Road Initiative.”
Inviting the Fiji prime minister, as representative of Pacific Island nations to BRICS+ events, Wang said China’s bilateral relations with the South Pacific nations “have expanded since 1970s.”
He added that the second meeting between China and Pacific Island countries agreed on five points.
“Meeting was a great success, showing a common desire to promote and upgrade our bilateral ties,” he said, adding the two sides agreed to deepen comprehensive partnership and firmly safeguard others’ interests.
“We agreed to support each other in defending sovereignty, independence and national dignity,” he said.
“Countries are all equal irrespective of their size,” Wang said, adding: “People in this region have a freedom to pursue a better life; the destiny and future of Pacific Island countries should be held in their own hands; all countries need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity and not interfere in other’s internal affairs.”
“These are basic norms governing international affairs.”