Fiji’s defence minister on Sunday said climate change was the most serious security threat facing the Asia-Pacific region, a shift in tone at a defense summit dominated by the war in Ukraine and disputes between China and the US.
Fiji, a low-situated Pacific island state, has come under a series of cyclones over the past couple of years, displacing thousands from their homes and crippling the economy.
“In our blue Pacific continent, machine guns, fighter jets, grey ships, and green battalions are not our primary security concern,” Inia Seruiratu, Fiji’s defensive minister, told the Shangri-La dialogue, which concludes on Sunday.
The Pacific islands became a flashpoint of regional tensions this year, after China concluded a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April, alarming the US, Australia and New Zealand, which fear strengthening Beijing’s military presence in the Pacific.
Canberra, Washington and allies were especially angry at China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, visited the Pacific Islands last month in hopes of drawing up a comprehensive regional trade and security pact, but island nations have failed to reach agreement.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met last month with foreign ministers from 10 Pacific nations in Fiji, hoping to persuade them to sign China’s failed security pact with the Solomon Islands.