Fijian PM Proposes Pacific ‘Peace Zone’ Amid Beijing Aggression

Fijian Prime Minister says he's more comfortable dealing with traditional friends, like Australia, with similar styles of government and democracy.Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has expressed a preference for continuing strong ties with long-standing allies like Australia, during a Oct. 18 visit to Canberra with Australian leader Anthony Albanese.The Fijian prime minister said he was “more comfortable dealing with traditional friends" that had a similar system of government and Westminster-inspired democracy amid ongoing competition in the region between the United States and Beijing.His comments come as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues asserting its influence in the region. Pacific ‘Peace Zone’ Plan During a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Oct. 17, Mr. Rabuka advocated for the establishment of a "peace zone" in the Pacific.Related StoriesThe proposal would encompass a pledge to abstain from actions that could endanger stability in the region, while respecting the sovereignty of Pacific nations.“There would be continued emphasis on the Pacific way of dialogue, diplomacy, and consensus. Protection and conservation of the environment would be central—a positive element for more harmony and peace,” he said.Mr. Rabuka will present his “peace zone” proposal to the Pacific Island Forum during their forthcoming meeting in November in the Cook Islands.Regarding Beijing’s growing influence in the region, he said, “I have to be confident Beijing will be responsive to the peace plan. Fiji’s position is clear, we are friendly with Beijing and the U.S. and do not want to be caught in the struggle between the superpowers.”Of Mr. Rabuka’s peace plan, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, “It’s a vision we share. Our security is enhanced when we respond to Pacific priorities.” Australia-Fiji Relationship Fiji benefits from Australia's economic, development, and security assistance, and this was formalised in 2019 as the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership, which both PMs discussed during their meeting on Oct. 18.Australia has agreed to supply Fiji with 14 Bushmaster armoured military vehicles, as well as working on an accord for cybersecurity collaboration.Prime Minister Albanese further announced an increase in financial assistance to aid Fiji's economic recovery, given the severe impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the country's tourism sector.Australia is one of Fiji's major trading partners and also cooperates closely on defence issues, conducting regular joint exercises.In recent years, Australia's engagement has been pushed up a notch following Beijing's push into the region. Fiji-Beijing Relationship Fiji's relationship with Beijing is complex and evolving.Beijing supplies the island nation with foreign investment and aid including investment in infrastructure, tourism, and other sectors.However, in recent years, Fiji has become more cautious in its dealings with Beijing, particularly its use of debt-trap diplomacy via the Belt and Road Initiative.Debt-trap diplomacy is an international financial relationship where a creditor country extends debt to a borrowing nation partially, or solely, to increase the lender's political leverage. Beijing allegedly engages in this practice in order to increase its power and control over countries.Fiji is not officially part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Beijing on BRI cooperation—meaning Fiji is open to working with Beijing on BRI projects, but it is not committed to any specific investments currently.

Fijian PM Proposes Pacific ‘Peace Zone’ Amid Beijing Aggression

Fijian Prime Minister says he's more comfortable dealing with traditional friends, like Australia, with similar styles of government and democracy.

Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has expressed a preference for continuing strong ties with long-standing allies like Australia, during a Oct. 18 visit to Canberra with Australian leader Anthony Albanese.

The Fijian prime minister said he was “more comfortable dealing with traditional friends" that had a similar system of government and Westminster-inspired democracy amid ongoing competition in the region between the United States and Beijing.

His comments come as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues asserting its influence in the region.

Pacific ‘Peace Zone’ Plan

During a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Oct. 17, Mr. Rabuka advocated for the establishment of a "peace zone" in the Pacific.

The proposal would encompass a pledge to abstain from actions that could endanger stability in the region, while respecting the sovereignty of Pacific nations.

“There would be continued emphasis on the Pacific way of dialogue, diplomacy, and consensus. Protection and conservation of the environment would be central—a positive element for more harmony and peace,” he said.

Mr. Rabuka will present his “peace zone” proposal to the Pacific Island Forum during their forthcoming meeting in November in the Cook Islands.

Regarding Beijing’s growing influence in the region, he said, “I have to be confident Beijing will be responsive to the peace plan. Fiji’s position is clear, we are friendly with Beijing and the U.S. and do not want to be caught in the struggle between the superpowers.”

Of Mr. Rabuka’s peace plan, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, “It’s a vision we share. Our security is enhanced when we respond to Pacific priorities.”

Australia-Fiji Relationship

Fiji benefits from Australia's economic, development, and security assistance, and this was formalised in 2019 as the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership, which both PMs discussed during their meeting on Oct. 18.

Australia has agreed to supply Fiji with 14 Bushmaster armoured military vehicles, as well as working on an accord for cybersecurity collaboration.

Prime Minister Albanese further announced an increase in financial assistance to aid Fiji's economic recovery, given the severe impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the country's tourism sector.

Australia is one of Fiji's major trading partners and also cooperates closely on defence issues, conducting regular joint exercises.

In recent years, Australia's engagement has been pushed up a notch following Beijing's push into the region.

Fiji-Beijing Relationship

Fiji's relationship with Beijing is complex and evolving.

Beijing supplies the island nation with foreign investment and aid including investment in infrastructure, tourism, and other sectors.

However, in recent years, Fiji has become more cautious in its dealings with Beijing, particularly its use of debt-trap diplomacy via the Belt and Road Initiative.

Debt-trap diplomacy is an international financial relationship where a creditor country extends debt to a borrowing nation partially, or solely, to increase the lender's political leverage. Beijing allegedly engages in this practice in order to increase its power and control over countries.

Fiji is not officially part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Beijing on BRI cooperation—meaning Fiji is open to working with Beijing on BRI projects, but it is not committed to any specific investments currently.