China launches empire building exercise in Pacific theatre

President Panuelo: ‘Chinese control over our security space, aside from impacts on our sovereignty, increases the chances of China getting into conflict with Australia, Japan, US and New Zealand, on the day when Beijing decides to invade Taiwan.’

Time to head to the map room. We’ll open the long, wide, top drawer, pull out the map of World War II’s Pacific Theatre, and set it aside on the chart table for now. We’ll get back to it. But first we’ll pull out an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) map of the region.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, every island can get up to 200 nautical miles off its coast as an EEZ in which it controls resources, say, fisheries. That means, for example, Pacific Island Country (PIC) Kiribati may have a population of around 120,000, but, with its EEZ, it covers as much of the planet as India.

Now let’s colour in the EEZs of the countries being visited at the moment by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his large delegation. What we see is a large, contiguous band—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa—off the northeast coast of Australia, backed against Kiribati. And off to the northwest of Australia, almost embedded into Indonesia, strategically located Timor-Leste.

What are we looking at? Well, China helpfully tells us.


Wang is hoping the PICs who recognize China will sign on to two prewritten documents. We know what’s in them because they have been leaked by Pacific Islanders worried about the implications.

The first one is “China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision”. The second is “China-Pacific Island Countries Five-Year Action Plan on Common Development (2022-2026)”. The “Action Plan” describes how China plans to achieve its “Vision”.

“Vision” talks about: law enforcement cooperation, including “immediate and high-level police training”; “cooperation on network governance and cyber security”, including a “shared future in cyberspace”; the “possibility of establishing China-Pacific Island Countries Free Trade Area”;…