Home » Pacific Island police ministers fly into Beijing to talk security with China

Pacific Island police ministers fly into Beijing to talk security with China

Three Pacific ministers have attended a high-level meeting on police cooperation between China and Pacific Island nations as Beijing continues its push to cement deeper security ties with the region.

China’s Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong convened the second “ministerial dialogue on police cooperation” with Pacific Island countries on Friday last week.

While last year’s meeting was virtual and drew in only one minister, this year’s meeting was held in person in Beijing and drew in ministers from three Pacific Island countries.

Solomon Islands Police Minister Anthony Veke, Samoa’s Police Minister Faualo Harry Jeffrey Schuster and Tonga’s Trade Minister Viliami Uasike Latu attended, while Kiribati sent Acting Police Commissioner Eeri Aritiera to the meeting.

Several other Pacific Island countries sent more junior representatives.

Papua New Guinea sent Assistant Police Commissioner Hodges Ette while Cook Islands sent a mid-ranking police inspector and Vanuatu the chair of its Police Service Commission.

Two Pacific Island countries that recognise China — Fiji and Federated States of Micronesia — did not send any representatives at all.

There is no evidence at this stage that Beijing struck any concrete agreements on Friday, with state media Xinhua reporting that Minister Wang said China was “willing to work with all parties to foster a good ministerial dialogue mechanism and carry out practical and mutually beneficial cooperation”.

Xinhua also said that the dialogue “fully recognised the fruitful results achieved since the first one and reached broad consensus for the future cooperation” but did not provide any details about what those results were.

Sources from two of the Pacific countries that did not send ministers to the meeting also stressed that their representatives did not have the authority to sign any deals or agreements.

But Australian officials have still been monitoring the gathering closely, with Pacific Minister Pat Conroy telling the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing on Thursday that he was “aware” of a police initiative between China and the Pacific being “in the pipeline”.

Australia remains sceptical about Beijing’s strategic aims in the Pacific and has been trying to lock it out as a major security player in the region, pointing out that Pacific island leaders have endorsed a “family first” approach to security.

China focused on regular engagement

Graeme Smith from the Australian National University told the ABC the meeting was a clear sign that Beijing was intent on establishing an annual dialogue with the Pacific on police cooperation.

Dr Graeme Smith says Beijing is keen to maintain regular dialogue with Pacific leaders as part of its objectives in the region. (Supplied: Pobke Photography/ANU )

“They want policy coordination, which is the main game of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.

“If they can have annual meetings that’s a big tick — it doesn’t take a lot of time, but it demonstrates a regularity to their engagement.”

Dr Smith said China would probably be “satisfied” that it had secured the attendance of three Pacific ministers this year, even though the junior representation from some countries and absence of others would probably rankle Beijing.

“It’s a nice indicator of where each Pacific country sits right now in terms of their depth of friendship and trust with Chinese police cooperation,” he said.

Solomon Islands police minister ‘so grateful’

China has been particularly intent on deepening police and security links with Solomon Islands since striking new agreements with the Pacific Island country in 2022 and earlier this year.