Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said Wednesday he preferred dealing with democratic “traditional friends” when asked about China’s security role in the South Pacific.
On a visit to Australia, Rabuka outlined his vision for a “zone of peace” in the Pacific — a region where China is challenging the historic diplomatic and military influence of the United States and its allies.
Asked if China should play a security role in creating such a “zone of peace”, Rabuka noted the competing interests of major powers in the South Pacific had been described as “rivalry” or “one-upmanship”.
“Whatever it is, we are more comfortable with traditional friends” that share similar histories in their political, legal, policing and judicial systems, he said.
“We are more comfortable with friends that we have had over a longer period,” he stressed in a news conference after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
The Fijian leader said he was nevertheless committed to a policy of being “friend to all, enemy to none”, adding that he wanted to avoid appearing “aggressive” in international relations.
Albanese, meanwhile, said his government had agreed to sell 14 Bushmaster armoured personnel carriers to Fiji while also providing “further budget support” for its economy, without specifying a figure.
In a speech in Canberra the previous day, Rabuka said a “zone of peace” in the Pacific would rely on nations showing “respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“I come back to the US-China rivalry. It is very evident in our blue Pacific but it does not have that raw edge visible elsewhere,” he said.
“Fiji’s position is very clear. We are friendly with China, now, and the US, always, and do not want to be caught in the struggle between the superpowers.”