Penny Wong begins second Pacific trip as foreign minister to bolster ties in the region

Senator Wong flew out on Wednesday for visits to Samoa and Tonga following a visit to Fiji last week.

Penny Wong surrounded by a group of Fijian men

Penny Wong's second trip to the Pacific since becoming foreign minister will involve visits to Samoa and Tonga. Source: Getty / Pita Simpson

Foreign Minister Penny Wong will carry out her second visit to the Pacific since she became foreign minister, as Australia aims to strengthen ties in the region.

Senator Wong flew out on Wednesday for visits to Samoa and Tonga, following a visit to Fiji last week.

The trip comes days after China signed bilateral agreements with both nations and as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi carries out a multi-country blitz of the Pacific region, including a stop in Tonga on Wednesday.

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While China has signed bilateral agreements with Pacific nations, it scrapped a region-wide security deal with multiple countries.

China then put out a position paper on the Pacific, which covered areas such as security and development, along with greater dialogue and diplomatic ties between nations.
Senator Wong said the visit to Samoa and Tonga would aim to strengthen ties between Pacific nations and Australia.

"I look forward to listening to leaders in Samoa and Tonga about how the Australian government can best apply the new energy and resources we are bringing to the Pacific," Senator Wong said in a statement.

"We understand that we need to to work together like never before, for our peoples and for generations to come."

Senator Wong will meet with Samoan head of state Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.

She will then meet with Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni as well as Tonga's foreign minister.
The visit comes as with Pacific nations.

However, several bilateral deals were signed between China and Tonga, following meetings with Mr Sovaleni.

China had released its Pacific islands position paper on Tuesday, after it failed to get leaders in the region to sign up to the wide-ranging security deal.

The position paper covers areas such as security and development, along with greater dialogue and diplomatic ties.
Senator Wong said Australia wanted to make its own contribution to build a stronger Pacific family.

"We will increase our contribution to regional security: we understand that the security of the Pacific is the responsibility of the Pacific family, of which Australia is a part," she said.

"We will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Pacific family in addressing the existential threat of climate change, and we will deepen cultural and sporting ties."

Senator Wong is also expected to discuss in Tonga the international response to the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami that took place earlier this year.

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Published 1 June 2022 at 6:20pm, updated 2 June 2022 at 5:49am
Source: AAP, SBS