TESS NEWTON CAIN |
High level US visit to the region
US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, is concluding a multi-country visit to the region. The tour takes her to Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Australia, and New Zealand. This is the latest in a series of activities on the part of the Biden administration to demonstrate a renewed and refreshed engagement with the region.
In Solomon Islands, Ms Sherman joined a number of events to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, in which her father had fought. These events were also attended by dignitaries from Solomon Islands, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. Caroline Kennedy, the newly appointed US Ambassador to Australia also attended. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare did not attend the commemorations. He held bilateral talks with Ms Sherman later on Sunday.
During her tour Ms Sherman has met with government leaders, opposition members, young people and members of the media.
PNG Parliament to sit this week
In Papua New Guinea, the Governor-General has summoned Parliament to sit on August 9th. This is despite the fact that counting is still ongoing in many electorates. However, on Monday it was reported that the Commissioner of Elections had sought to extend the deadline for return of writs to August 12th.
Based on the results that have been finalised so far, the camp at Loloata which is led by James Marape of the PANGU party has the numbers. However, it will be on the floor of Parliament that the government will be formed.
Rufina Peter has been confirmed as the new governor of Central Province, making her the first woman to be elected to the PNG Parliament for over a decade. She had previously contended in 2017. Counting is proceeding, albeit slowly, in the Madang Rai Coast seat where Kessy Sawang remains in contention.
Economic Ministers gather in Port Vila
The Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministerial Meeting (FEMM) will take place this week in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The meeting will be chaired by Vanuatu’s Finance Minister, Johnny Koanapo.
This is one of two standing ministerial meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum and this is the first time the meeting has been held in person since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting has a number of priority issues to address including the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, economic recovery post COVID-19, the Pacific Resilience Facility and leveraging climate finance.
When it comes to economic recovery post COVID-19 there are several initiatives that have been proposed by the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce on which Ministers will receive updates. They include the convening of a regional debt conference, a supply chain study and continuation of a freight assistance package for Pacific exporters.
Pacific island countries respond to Pelosi visit to Taiwan
The recent visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the USA has prompted a flurry of statements from Pacific leaders and Chinese diplomats posted to the region. It has highlighted once again that Pacific island countries are very much in focus when it comes to geostrategic competition.
In Tuvalu, which recognises Taiwan as a diplomatic partner, Foreign Minister Simon Kofe took to Twitter to condemn China’s firing of missiles towards Taiwan further to the Speaker’s visit.
However, in other countries, which recognise the People’s Republic of China, there has been a range of statements reiterating the centrality of the ‘One China Principle’ to relations between various Pacific capitals and Beijing. Notably, Vanuatu’s acting Foreign Minister reportedly referred to Taiwan as ‘an inalienable part of China’s territory’.
Elsewhere Chinese diplomats used local media to write op-eds to reinforce the Beijing view of events.
Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.