China shuns rivalry in Pacific as Australia says 'this is our patch'

PM lures Pacific with cash, troops and TV shows

The two countries have also been vying for influence in sparsely populated Pacific island countries that control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

China has spent over a billion dollars on concessional loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific's second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Scott Morrison, the prime minister, said that the country could not take its influence in the region for granted, detailing plans for greater military and diplomatic engagement with its poorer neighbours.

The two countries have endured turbulent ties following Canberra's introduction of laws late previous year to curb foreign interference - measures that were seen as aimed at Beijing.

"We did exchange views on that matter", Payne said at a press conference alongside Wang, but she did not elaborate on what she had told him behind closed doors.

Australia has also barred Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE from operating the country's new 5G network - a decision that has infuriated Beijing.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne will on Thursday meet her Chinese counterpart in Beijing, the first visit by an Australian foreign minister in two years after bilateral relations soured.

Australia will also put diplomats in all 18 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum, with new embassies planned for Palau, Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Nui and Cook Islands.

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He will announce measures to boost relations, including more navy deployments for training and exercises, partnering with commercial media outlets to beam more Australian content into the Pacific and a new sports diplomacy program to bring people together.

"China is firmly against terrorism, and will take strict precautions against the spread of terrorism domestically", Wang said.

Another AU$1 billion ($728 million) will be injected into the Export Finance and Insurance Corp., Australia's export credit agency, which will be given more flexibility to support investment in the region that would benefit Australia, he said.

"Australia has an abiding interest in the South-west Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically", he said.

While reiterating the government's stand on APA, Payne said Australia remained open to Chinese investment.

Australia's announcement comes ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Papua New Guinea next week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

"It is imperative for the two sides to re-establish political mutual trust, so as to consolidate the basis for bilateral relations", Wang said, voicing the hope that Australia correctly understands and treats China's development path and its strategic intentions, working to wipe out "mutual trust deficit".

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