TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Marape’s overseas trip cut short
Prime Minister James Marape has returned to Papua New Guinea, cutting short his trip to China. He tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival into Beijing. He has also cancelled a trip to France. This comes after several officials who were supposed to have accompanied Marape were not able to join the trip because they tested positive prior to departure.
Whilst in Beijing, Marape took part in a virtual meeting with the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang. However, he was not able to meet with President Xi or attend the opening of the Winter Olympics as had been intended. Other high-level meetings were undertaken by ministers who accompanied the PM.
A joint communiqué issued by PNG and the PRC identifies ways in which the bilateral relationship is intended to develop. They include the completion of a feasibility study into the establishment of a free trade agreement.
US Secretary of State to visit Fiji
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to visit Fiji at the weekend. His trip comes after a meeting of the QUAD Foreign Ministers in Melbourne, Australia, and before a visit to Hawai’i en route back to the United States.
This is the first official visit by a Secretary of State since 1985 and has been warmly welcomed by the Fijian leadership.
It is unclear whether Blinken will meet with the Prime Minister of Fiji, as Mr Bainimarama is currently in Australia undergoing medical treatment. An announcement by the Government of Fiji said that the Secretary of State will meet with senior officials.
Blinken is also scheduled to take part in a ‘hybrid’ meeting with Pacific leaders. Given the ongoing restrictions on entry into many Pacific island countries, it is very unlikely that many leaders will travel to Fiji for this meeting.
SpaceX team in Fiji
A team of engineers from SpaceX have arrived in Fiji. They are there to establish a Starlink gateway station. The station will help restore internet connections to Tonga. Further to the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami, Tonga’s undersea communications cable was severed. A repair ship is now on-site, but it is not known how long it will take to repair the cable.
Fijian authorities have advised that the Starlink team will be in Fiji for a period of at least six months.
Whilst there is some limited connectivity available in Tonga, the demand for internet access has far outstripped the ability of providers to supply data.
Access to the internet will assist authorities in liaising with international partners to manage response and recovery efforts further to the twin disaster. It will also allow members of the Tongan diaspora to contact their families in the Kingdom more regularly and assist them by transferring funds.
Tuvalu Minister nominated for Nobel peace prize
Hon. Simon Kofe from Tuvalu has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize. Kofe is the country’s Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs. He shot to global fame last year when he made a video address to the COP26 summit standing knee-deep in water to illustrate the immediacy of the climate crisis in his country.
The Minister was nominated by Guri Melby who is a Norwegian politician. Ms Melby referenced that the work of Kofe and other Pacific leaders and activists plays an important role in “waking up” the global community as to the significance of climate change in his country and the region.
Previously, other Pacific leaders have been nominated for their work in relation to climate change action. In 2016, the late Tony de Brum of Marshall Islands was nominated. The former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, has been nominated twice.