AFPWELLINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — China is planning a summit of Pacific island leaders in November, Papua New Guinea has revealed, as New Zealand warned Tuesday Beijing was attempting to fill a “vacuum” in the long-neglected region.
China’s President Xi Jinping wants to hold the meeting ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Port Moresby from Nov. 12-18.
“[I] invite you to attend a Pacific Island leaders’ meeting with the President of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping, during his state visit to Papua New Guinea in the days before the APEC Leaders’ Meeting,” PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in an address to the Fiji parliament in Suva on Monday.
O’Neill did not detail the meeting’s agenda but the fact that Xi is seeking a sit-down with the region’s small island nations will draw attention in Canberra, Wellington and beyond.
Australia and New Zealand have long regarded Oceania as their backyard, but China has become increasingly assertive in the region over the past decade.