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Fijian prime minister ‘more comfortable dealing with traditional friends’ like Australia than China

Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, left, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese change rugby jerseys after a bilateral assembly at Parliament Home in Canberra, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Rabuka mentioned his authorities was “more comfortable dealing with traditional friends” comparable to Australia as China pursues nearer safety ties within the Asia-Pacific area.- AP

Fiji’s prime minister mentioned Wednesday on a go to to Australia’s capital that his authorities was “more comfortable dealing with traditional friends” comparable to Australia as China pursues nearer safety ties within the Asia-Pacific area.

Sitiveni Rabuka and Australia’s Anthony Albanese met in the course of the Fijian’s first state go to to Australia since he most just lately got here to energy in December final yr. The 75-year-old former military colonel and coup chief had beforehand been Fiji’s prime minister from 1992 till 1999.

Rabuka sided with Australia in what he described because the “rivalry” and “one-upmanship“ between america and China.

“We’re more comfortable dealing with traditional friends, that we have similar systems of government, that our democracies are the same brand of democracy, coming out of the Westminster system,” Rabuka advised reporters.

“Our justice system, our policing system — we’re more comfortable with friends that we have had over a longer period,” Rabuka added.

However Rabuka cautioned in opposition to international locations showing to be aggressive towards mates and neighbours with whom that they had cordial relations.

The 2 leaders introduced a number of developments of their bilateral relationship together with an elevation of the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership, a 2019 settlement on nearer cooperation, session and friendship.

Australia agreed to promote Fiji 14 Australian-built Bushmaster armoured navy automobiles and to achieve an settlement on cybersecurity cooperation.

Albanese mentioned Australia would supply Fiji with extra monetary help to assist financial restoration after the coronavirus pandemic devastated the nation’s tourism business.

Rabuka mentioned Fiji’s vacationer numbers and tourism revenue had rebounded to pre-COVID ranges, with Australia the biggest supply of holiday makers.

Australia and america have stepped up their engagement with the area since final yr when China struck a safety pact with the Solomon Islands that raised considerations a few Chinese language naval base being established within the South Pacific.

China has additionally proposed a region-wide safety and financial cope with Pacific Island nations however a number of international locations have resisted.

Rabuka mentioned he had been “honoured” when Albanese phoned him in March to say that Australia, america and Britain would announce in San Diego the next day an settlement on nuclear-powered submarines.

Beneath the AUKUS settlement, Australia will purchase three Virginia-class submarines from america and construct 5 new AUKUS-class submarines in cooperation with Britain in response to China’s rising affect.

Rabuka mentioned Albanese had known as to alert him of the deal “because we’re family.”

However throughout a dialogue on the AUKUS deal on Tuesday, Rabuka stopped wanting endorsing the elevated navy cooperation.

“I was not part of the planning. I’m in no position to try to stop it. This is a tripartite strategic project,” Rabuka mentioned.

“All I can do is hope that this project will assist the concept of the zone of peace in the Pacific,” he mentioned.

Rabuka plans to ask that the 18-nation Pacific Islands Discussion board endorse his zone of peace proposal at a gathering within the Prepare dinner Islands in November.

The proposal may embody nations refraining from actions that jeopardize regional order and stability whereas respecting neighbours’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, he mentioned

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