TOKYO (REUTERS) – New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday (May 24) climate change was the main economic and security challenge for low-lying island counties in the Pacific, referring to a region in which China has been extending its influence.
“The region is looking to us to work with them and to lead by example,” he said in Tokyo during a meeting of the Quad group of countries, telling the leaders of the United States, India and Japan he wanted them all to lead on climate change.
“That’s why my government will take ambitious action on climate change and increase our support to partners in the region as they work to address it, including with new finance,” he said.
His government committed to a greater focus on South-east Asia, and “using the power of proximity” to strengthen its defence and maritime partnerships in the Pacific, he said.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi will visit the Solomon Islands this week and sign key agreements, expected to include a security pact criticised by the United States, Australia and Japan, as part of a tour of eight Pacific island nations.
Albanese later told reporters on Tuesday: “The Solomons was discussed in the meeting, including the issue in which China is seeking to exert more influence in the Pacific. We know that is the case, Australia is responding to that along with the United States.”
He said the Quad had discussed the question “how do we make sure we push our shared values in the region at a time when China is clearly seeking to exert more influence?”
The Quad is looking at issue of maritime security and illegal fishing, because “fish stocks are so important to our Pacific island neighbours”, he said.