Japan, Fiji and Palau share the same concerns over a security pact China recently signed with the Solomon Islands, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Sunday as he wrapped up a trip to the two Pacific island nations.
Hayashi told an online press conference from Palau that the pact could have a “significant impact” on the security of the Pacific and that Tokyo will step up cooperation with the United States, Australia and New Zealand to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.
“I conveyed Japan’s concern that an agreement regarding security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands could significantly impact the security environment of this region, and the Pacific island nations showed similar views,” he said.
Hayashi made the comments after separate talks with Palau’s President Surangel Whipps and State Minister Gustav Aitaro in the country’s most populous city Koror.
On Saturday, the Japanese minister met with Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who doubles as foreign minister, in Suva. Banimarama commended Japan for its continuous support to Fiji’s national development priorities and scope of partnership, which over the years, has extended to important areas including climate change, disaster risk management, COVID-19 response efforts, continued commitment towards the Japan-Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM-9) and mutual co-operation for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific“.
That same day, Hayashi also met Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna. The two leaders confirmed the importance of working together for regional peace and stability, including response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues.
Hayashi’s trip came as China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands, announced last month, has prompted other small Pacific island nations to become more vigilant in light of Beijing’s growing military presence in the region.