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China’s bold push ruffles feathers among Pacific nations

China's whirlwind diplomatic blitz of the Pacific has caused concern amid some of the region's island nations, building on existing worries in Australia and the United States.

The diplomatic rivalry between Australia and China showed no sign of abating on Thursday as Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her Chinese counterpart paid separate visits to island nations.

The duelling tours continued in the wake of China's failure in a bold bid to get 10 nations to sign onto a deal covering security, fisheries and much more.

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Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said she wanted to make clear that while Samoa had signed some bilateral agreements with China, it hadn't favoured inking the big multilateral deal — at least not right away.

She said Samoa and the other nations needed to talk through the issues first.

"Our position was that you cannot have regional agreement when the region hasn't met to discuss it," she said.

"To be called into discussion and have an expectation that there will be an outcome was something we could not agree to."

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been even more blunt, tweeting "The Pacific needs genuine partners, not superpowers that are super-focused on power."

https://twitter.com/FijiPM/status/1531180835356803072

In Samoa, Wong announced Australia would donate a patrol boat to replace a similar one that was wrecked when it ran aground last year.

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Papua New Guinea to meet with leaders there on the penultimate stop of an eight-nation regional tour.

Wang had hoped to ink an ambitious multilateral deal with 10 Pacific nations this week covering everything from security to fisheries.

He couldn't find consensus on that deal but has been notching up smaller wins by signing bilateral agreements with many of the countries he's been visiting.

Since news of the proposed mega deal emerged, Wong has made two trips to the Pacific to shore up support for Australia.

Wong told reporters in Samoa that Australia respected the right of sovereign nations to make their own security decisions, but said those decisions "have the potential to affect the nature of the security arrangements of the region".

"Having a collective consideration of those matters is important," she said.

Wang's visit to Papua New Guinea comes ahead of a national election there next month.

Wong will next visit Tonga while Wang plans to end his tour with a stop in East Timor.

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