China's Pacific charm offensive leaves Western leaders worried despite lack of region-wide security pact

China's Foreign Minister has wrapped up his whirlwind tour of the Pacific which has left Western leaders worried. Credit: Image - File; Video - Newshub

China's Foreign Minister has wrapped up his whirlwind tour of the Pacific.

He might not have walked away with a region-wide security pact, but it's certainly left Western leaders worried.

Touching down in Timor-Leste, the last stop for China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on his 10-day tour of the Pacific.

Here he signed deals on agriculture, media and economic cooperation, but failed to get a security arrangement over the line.

"Oh absolutely not. Why would we, we don't feel threatened by anyone," said East Timor President José Ramos-Horta.

It's been five weeks since the Solomon Islands signed up to an extensive security deal with China.

But the superpower's plan to extend that into the Pacific, with a 10-nation security pact has been shelved after it was rejected by Pacific leaders.

But Wang Yi's charm offensive in the region has had some success.

In the 10-day tour he visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, and like with his latest stop in Timor-Leste he struck several development agreements with many of them.

"In terms of what we have learned it's the ability and astuteness of Pacific countries to leverage geopolitical interests and the limitations and ineffectiveness of China's diplomacy," said Dr Anna Powles, a senior lecturer at Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies.

But it's sent shockwaves to other Pacific players.

Australia sent its new Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong on a tour of her own. And Jacinda Ardern and US President Joe Biden issued a joint statement over their concerns.

But one analyst says New Zealand needs to put its money where its mouth is.

"I just think it would give more integrity to the New Zealand position if we increase the amount of assistance that we give to the Pacific at the same time as telling them be cautious of taking money from other countries," said professor of international law at the University of Waikato, Alexander Gillespie.

While experts say the trip wasn't as successful as China would have hoped it served as a reminder to Western countries - including New Zealand - to better understand and support our Pacific neighbours and to do it fast.

Because China's interest in the Pacific isn't going away anytime soon.

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