Security Challenges
Volume 16, No.3 (2020)

How Should Australia Respond to China’s Increased Presence in the Pacific Islands

Australia and its partners face a challenge when expressing their concern about China’s increased presence in the Pacific Islands: how can they address their legitimate strategic concerns while at the same time avoiding making Pacific Island states feel insecure? This article argues that Australia needs to do two things. First, recognise that its approach to the Pacific Islands is frequently counterproductive, particularly when perceived domestic political imperatives generate a disconnect with its stated foreign and strategic policy priority of stepping up its relationships in the region. Second, ensure that it strikes a balance between expressing its strategic concerns and respecting the sovereign independence of Pacific Island states. Pacific Island states do not necessarily share the same geostrategic perspective as Australia, and may perceive that, by framing its region of primary strategic interest as the Indo Pacific, Australia is dragging them into geostrategic competition of which they do not want to be part.

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