Pacific Island nations seeking closer economic ties with Beijing are expected to benefit from the recent improvement in relations between Australia and China, according to Papua New Guinea's Minister for State, Justin Tkachenko. Tkachenko expressed satisfaction with Australia's positive outcomes from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's recent visit to China, the first by an Australian leader in seven years, following a diplomatic freeze. He emphasized the importance of China as an economic and physical partner for Papua New Guinea (PNG) and welcomed Australia's renewed engagement with China as a positive development for the Pacific region.
PNG signed a defense cooperation agreement with the United States in May amid concerns from Washington and Canberra regarding China's security ambitions in the Pacific Islands. Australia is the largest aid donor to PNG and the most significant donor across the Pacific region.
PNG's Prime Minister, James Marape, visited Beijing last month, demonstrating the nation's interest in strengthening trade ties with China. Tkachenko reiterated that closer cooperation between Australia and China would ultimately benefit the Pacific Islands.
During the Pacific Islands Forum regional bloc meeting, discussions encompassed climate change, regional security, and the economy. Prime Minister Albanese highlighted Australia's commitment to reducing emissions and transitioning to greener industries. He emphasized Australia's plans to produce green steel and aluminum, develop green hydrogen, and expand its critical minerals and rare earths sector.
The Pacific Islands Forum includes member nations spanning vast ocean territories between the United States and Asia. Rising sea levels and worsening storms due to climate change are among their top security concerns.
In addition to Australia and China, other nations, including Taiwan and the United States, have sent delegations to the Cook Islands for the forum. Several forum members maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan rather than Beijing.