Western powers sound alarm on China plan for South Pacific

Image Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet - flickr

Western powers sounded the alarm Thursday over leaked plans to dramatically expand China's security and economic reach in the South Pacific, in what one regional leader called a thinly veiled effort to lock island states into "Beijing's orbit".

If approved by Pacific island nations, the wide-ranging draft agreement and a five-year plan, both obtained by AFP, would give China a larger security footprint in a region seen as crucial to the interests of the United States and its allies.

In a sign of the region's growing importance to Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi landed in the Solomon Islands Thursday at the start of a high-level, eight-nation Pacific tour to present the potentially lucrative offer.

The package would offer 10 small island states millions of dollars in Chinese assistance, the prospect of a China-Pacific Islands free trade agreement and access to China's vast market of 1.4 billion people.