Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Pacific Island Nations: The Focus of FOIP
CHINO Keiko / Journalist

February 1, 2022
On December 23, 2021, in order to maintain public security, the Sogavare administration of the Pacific island nation Solomon Islands announced the acceptance of equipment and police training personnel from China. Contrary to the modest coverage by the media, this news should raise some red flags. We must acknowledge with grudging admiration China's thorough preparation and ambition behind such a quick offer to "help".

In spite of recognizing Taiwan as a country for many years, in September of 2019, the government of Solomon Islands changed its position by opening diplomatic relations with China. The Sogavare administration has long been known as a pro-China faction, and the anti-government demonstrations of last November that erupted into riots and the burning of Chinese owned businesses may have been a contributing factor.

The country's political situation is far from stable, and in the past, Australia and New Zealand (NZ), as co-members of the Commonwealth of Nations, have sent troops to maintain security. Similarly, during this unrest, foreign troops were called in but the difference is that China had placed its personnel nearby, apparently in anticipation of the withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand troops, and successfully slipped them into the country.

This time, the collaboration itself is more meaningful than the details of the offer. Gaining a foothold is what is important to China. Now the collaboration can be strengthened. Originally, China stressed that building military installations on the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea was for peaceful purposes such as places of refuge. However, as soon as it became no longer possible to hide their true intentions, they insisted that building military bases in your own territory is totally justifiable. We must not forget this bitter lesson of history.

Of the 14 Pacific island nations including Solomon Islands, 10 now recognize China. Only Tuvalu, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands recognize Taiwan. Tuvalu, which is in danger of being submerged due to rising sea levels, once boldly declined China's offer to build an artificial island. On the other hand, Nauru, whose phosphate reserves are being depleted, is expected to recognize China eventually in exchange for support. China expands its tentacles to the small island countries whose future prospects are grim.

The “wolf warrior diplomacy”, repression of Uyghurs, and suppression of speech cause Europeans to feel distaste towards China and increase sympathy towards Taiwan. However, among the Pacific island nations, China feels that it has already gained the upper hand over Taiwan, and in order to counter the FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific) policy, seems eager to fly the 5-star red flag over all the easternmost and strategically important Pacific island nations.

Not only the United States, but also Britain, France, and Germany support the FOIP policy and are already sending naval ships to the region. However, the Pacific island nations' interest in the FOIP policy is still low compared even to Southeast Asia where there are varying degrees of interest depending on the country.

Last year at the 9th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM9, video conference), hosted by Japan and attended by Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and 16 Pacific island nations and regions, held a discussion on FOIP but support for it was not included in the Leaders' Declaration. Given China's activism, it is necessary to boost understanding and support for FOIP amongst the Pacific island nations.

It is unfortunate for Australia and New Zealand to have allowed China to gain a foothold in the region. This is especially true for Australia because it has regarded the region as its "backyard." On January 6th, Japan and Australia just signed the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement. It is intended to facilitate cooperation between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defense Force, but is also expected to contribute to the progress of FOIP. This is an opportunity for Japan to remind Australia and New Zealand of the importance of FOIP. Now is the chance for Japan to make effective use of the asset cultivated through nine sessions of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meetings (PALM) based on the focused attention that it has paid to the region since as early as the late 1980s.

Keiko Chino (Freelance journalist, Sankei Shimbun, guest editorial writer)
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2022年 2月 1日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Pacific Island Nations: The Focus of FOIP