Australia’s new prime minister sounds like he wants to take on China’s growing influence in the South Pacific

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Australian PM Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific by announcing that it is time Australia make a “step-up to the Pacific.”
The PM is promising nearby Pacific nations closer economic, military and diplomatic ties, following a decade of Chinese expansion.
The comments, which were made without naming China, are reminiscent of former US President Barack Obama’s unfulfilled pledge of an “Asia Pivot,” made during a visit to Canberra — also a thinly disguised and largely abandoned strategy to check the advance of China.
Morrison aims to make the Pacific the center of Australian foreign policy. The centerpiece of that will be a $A2 billion facility to fund major regional projects.
He said Australia needs a “southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”

In Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first landmark Pacific policy address, the newly installed PM said Australia will commit anew to the Pacific, setting up a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank to fund projects in the region and appointing a series of new diplomatic posts.

“Australia will step up in the Pacific and take our engagement with the region to a new level,” the prime minister said Thursday.

“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the southwest Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Morrison said.

Morrison announced new defense force mobile-training team, annual meetings of defense, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.

The centerpiece will be a $2 billion AUD financial facility to help fund major regional projects while the existing export financing agency (EFA) will be boosted by another one billion dollars.

Referring to Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Morrison said the stability and economic progress of the Pacific region are of “fundamental importance,” and no single country can tackle the challenges on its own.

Morrison announced his Pacific Pivot ahead of a milestone meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asia-Pacific regional leaders next week at the APEC forum in Papua New Guinea.

Morrison said it was time Australia opened a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family.”

“Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”

Read more: Former US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson warns of an ‘economic iron curtain’ if the US and China can’t find a way to get along

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Source:: Business Insider

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