The global Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) has announced a new forum to tackle Beijing’s ongoing influence in the South Pacific, including its contentious military security pact with the Solomon Islands.
The IPAC Indo-Pacific Forum will sit alongside existing forums, like the Pacific Islands Forum and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, and will be one of the first dedicated platforms to deal with the “intensifying dynamics in the region” sparked by Beijing’s influence activities, which have capitalised on increasing instability in the region.
Forum’s Membership Will GrowCurrently, legislators from Australia, New Zealand, India, and Japan are involved with the new Forum. However, the mid-term goal is to onboard MPs from South Korea, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands, and other democratic partners in the region.
“The fact that MPs from several Pacific nations are in the process of joining IPAC shows the seriousness in which they are taking the changing situation in the Pacific,” said Ingrid Leary, federal Labour Party MP in New Zealand and member of IPAC.
“We welcome their voices as being critically important to informing the alliance of their perspectives and insights, as well as how they wish other nation states respond to the intensifying dynamics in their region.”
Meanwhile, IPAC said bilateral security agreements, like the one between the Solomons and Beijing, was an example of the “divide and conquer” strategy being applied by the CCP to undermine regional groups like the Pacific Islands Forum.
Beijing Capitalising on Weakening DemocraciesIPAC’s new Forum will need to move fast given the ongoing instability of democratic institutions across several Pacific nations—many of which incidentally have close ties to Beijing.
Loughman has faced pressure for months after attempting to change the nation’s Constitution to extend term limits from four to five years, and also to allow foreign nationals to hold office—there is a large population of Chinese nationals in the region.
A week earlier, three Tongan MPs were removed from Parliament after the country’s Court of Appeal found them guilty of bribing voters.
Solomon Islands Plunged Deeper into CCP EmbraceYet the ongoing political saga in the Solomon Islands has drawn the most attention, particularly after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed a security pact with Beijing that will allow Chinese weapons, police, troops, and naval ships to be stationed in the region—just 1,700 kilometres from the northern Australian city of Cairns.
The Solomons was also the site of extensive fighting during World War II’s Battle for Guadalcanal.
Further, the prime minister has also deepened ties with Beijing while working to entrench his time in office.
The partnership with Huawei has triggered fears that the Solomons could be tied further into Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative and open up the country’s mobile and digital networks to privacy breaches. Huawei is banned from the 5G networks of several developed countries, including Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.