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Does the West need to fear China’s presence in the pacific?

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China’s influence in the Pacific is causing concern for some Western nations who are playing a diminished role in the region

Tides are changing in the Pacific, an area which has long deferred to the West, but is increasingly gazing eastward.

The changing dynamic has been typified by the landmark security deal signed by China and the Solomon Islands. This week, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi embarked on an historic 10 day tour of eight Pacific Island nations.

Should Western nations fear China’s growing influence in the Pacific?

The Pacific Islands have a long history of Western influence, dating back hundreds of years to European colonisation.

But nations such as Australia and the U.S. are suddenly having to contend with the arrival of a new player.

Benjamin Herscovitch, a research fellow at the Australia National University, told TICKER NEWS China’s increased influence in the area represents a “dramatic shift in circumstances” for the region.

“We are at the beginning of a really heated up period of competition between Australia and China for influence in the Pacific,” he says.

This will place further pressure on an already strained relationship.

In recent years, the two nations have butted heads over a number of issues including human rights and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Two weeks ago, relations between the two nations flared again. In the lead up to the Australian federal election, then defence minister Peter Dutton labelled the presence of a Chinese spy ship off the coast of Western Australia was “an aggressive act”.

Despite outcry from the West, there is still no evidence China’s intentions in the Pacific have militaristic undercurrents.

Yi has started his tour of the Pacific by promising his government has “no intention” of building a military base in the Solomon Islands.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a ten day tour of the Pacific

What is China’s goal in the Pacific?

While China’s role in the Pacific will likely become a point of contention, Herscovitch doesn’t believe it is coming from a position of Chinese aggression.

Rather, it is the natural progression for a country becoming more influential across the globe.

“A lot of the alarmist commentary in Australia maybe fails to appreciate that we’re coming in this period of rising Chinese influence and power globally,” he says.

“It’s almost to be expected that you’d have Beijing having a much larger footprint in Australia’s region.”

“China is a country with an incredibly large economy, with trading interests that span the globe, with diplomatic and political interests that span the globe.”

Benjamin Herscovitch, ANU

“China’s expanding footprint, expanding influence is just part and parcel of China emerging as the globe’s greatest economic power,” he says.

Will Island nations benefit from competition in the Pacific?

Herscovitch says the dispute could be “a good news story” for island nations because states will compete to invest in the area as a way to build influence in the Pacific.

“We’ll see a lot of competition for investment, a lot of competition for influence between key economies, and that’s probably beneficial for Pacific Island countries,” he says.

Pacific nations also look set to benefit by increased action on climate change.

As some of the most low-lying nations in the world, global warming and rising sea levels are of huge concern to the area.

Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong also visited the Pacific to pledge an improvement in Australia’s climate change policy.

“There’s a sense here in which Australia’s desire for influence will encourage Australia to be more forward leaning, more proactive on climate change issues,” Herscovitch says.

New role for the West in the pacific?

With China beginning to gain a foothold in the Pacific, Herscovitch says the West may have to alter its diplomatic approach.

He believes Australia and U.S. have been overly critical of South Pacific countries, and in particular the Solomon Islands, for engaging with China.

In the backlash following Solomon Islands’ defence treaty with China, the nation’s Prime Minister Mannasseh Sogavare accused the Australian government and its allies of undermining his government.

Herscovitch labels this approach as “counterproductive” to maintaining relations with the Pacific nations, saying “we should always respect their sovereign decisions and respect their independent choices.”

He says Australia, the U.S. and Japan has a highly important role in providing expertise and advise on how to manage their relationship with China as they become more economically entwined with the global power.

“They’re relying on China for more infrastructure, and it’s really important that their officials are empowered with all the necessary information to manage that relationship and to manage that growing dependency,” he says.

Bryan Hoadley contributed to this report

World

Spectator dead following violent clashes at a football stadium

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One person has died in clashes at an Argentinian football stadium

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to stop fans from pushing into the crowded venue.

But that wasn’t enough, with many fans squeezing through fencing to escape the violence and get onto the field.

The incident took place around 50 kilometres south of the nation’s capital

The game was suspended nine minutes into play.

A 57-year-old man experienced cardiac arrest while being transferred from the stadium to the hospital.

It comes five days after 131 people died in a stampede prompted by Indonesian police firing tear gas inside a stadium.

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World

Bizarre antics disrupts court – but at what cost?

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Darrell Brooks, the man accused of killing 6 people during the Waukesha Christmas Parade has appeared in court, shirtless

In a bizarre series of events, the 40 year old who is representing himself, consistently disrupted the court.

So Judge Jennifer Dorow moved the defendant to another room to participate via video link with the ability to mute him.

But the antics didn’t stop there, he removed his shirt, with his back to the camera, threatening to break items nearby.

He then took off his shoe and refused to sit down.

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World

Biden says nuclear ‘armageddon’ threat is back

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U.S. President says the nuclear ‘armageddon’ threat is back for first time since Cuban Missile Crisis

The president was speaking at a fundraiser event, where he said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “not joking when he spoke about the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials have been warning that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

But they believe there’s been no change to Russia’s nuclear forces for the time being.

It comes as the leaders of more than 40 European nations convened in Prague to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky spoke via video link.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss says the summit is “not about moving closer to Europe” but “about working with Europe”.

When pressed about her working relationship with Macron, Truss admitted he is a ‘friend’.

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