Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka indicated Wednesday his country is reconsidering its security ties with China when talking about a decade-old police cooperation deal signed with Beijing, amid recent competition between China and the West for influence in the Pacific.
During a visit to New Zealand, Rabuka voiced his doubt about seeking closer alignment with China, saying at a press conference, "If our systems and our values differ, what cooperation can we get from them?"
Speaking about the police cooperation agreement, Rabuka said, "We need to look at that again before we decide whether we go back to it, or we continue the way we have had in the past cooperating with those that have similar democratic values and systems, legislation, law enforcement and so on."
Since taking office in December after a closely fought general election, Rabuka's coalition government has shown skepticism over the close ties developed with Beijing under the former government led by Frank Bainimarama.
In January, Rabuka told The Fiji Times that there was "no need" to continue with the police cooperation efforts, saying his country's "system of democracy and justice systems are different, so we will go back to those that have similar systems with us."
According to the local newspaper, a memorandum of understanding inked in 2011 between the Fiji Police Force and China's Ministry of Public Security has resulted in Fijian police officers undergoing training in China, with Chinese officers being deployed to Fiji on attachment programs for three to six months.
In September 2021, police cooperation efforts between the two countries reached new heights following the appointment of a Chinese police liaison officer based in Fiji, the newspaper reported.
Seeking to deepen ties with like-minded nations, Rabuka said on Wednesday that Fiji is set to finalize a defense agreement with New Zealand next week.
The status of forces agreement will "allow defense officials to undertake engagement in different areas, including capacity building and upskilling, exposure to new technologies, interoperability, and technical support amongst others," Rabuka said.
Competition between China and the United States for influence in the strategically significant region has intensified in recent years.
The United States last month signed a defense pact with Papua New Guinea, the most populous Pacific nation located just north of Australia. Washington also opened embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga in recent months after the Solomon Islands signed a wide-reaching security pact with Beijing last year.