China wants to challenge the US’ maritime dominance in the area and in recent years has increased its economic interests in various island nations which have large maritime territories. Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are just a few of the nations who are now in debt to China after accepting huge loans. Politicians funded by Beijing also regularly call for their Government’s to recognise China over Taiwan.
It also is believed China has its eyes on each nations’ satellite slots which will be needed for missile guidance systems.
Asia director of Melbourne’s La Trobe University Euan Graham told The Financial Times: “The South Pacific has become strategic again for the first time since World War II.
“We are seeing everything from small-scale economic engagement to full elite capture. What is their aim? In the Pacific, there is nothing really economically worth a candle for China.
“This is a pre-conflict type of shadow war version of island-hopping.”
Ryan Martinson, a China expert at the US Naval War College, warned about China’s oceanographic research vessels carrying out tests in the Pacific.
He said: “The primary driver is seabed mineral exploration, but there are also clear military uses.
“The area these vessels’ activity is concentrated in is where possible submarine warfare between the US and China would take place.”
The US has consistently threatened China with crippling trade tarrifs, ranging from food products to Chinese technology and products.
Meanwhile, the US warned China is the “biggest threat to democracy and the way of life around the world” as Beijing’s presence during the escalating crisis in Venezuela heightens global tensions.