Australia donates new coastguard vessel to Samoa

Australia to provide Samoa with new coastguard patrol boat, foreign secretary says Penny Wang announced during a visit to the Pacific island nation on Thursday as she sought to restore ties and counter China’s growing influence.

Following a meeting with the Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afaWong said Australia would provide a Guardian-class ship next year to replace the one that recently ran aground.

“We understand how important these maritime assets are to island nations,” Wong said.

Samoa’s previous boat, the 40-metre (130ft) Nafanua II, struck a reef last August, sustaining irreparable damage.

Mata’afa welcomed the “generous” offer of a replacement “despite the unfortunate circumstances of our last boat”, adding that she hoped lessons had been learned for “a very critical area of ​​our maritime security”.

Wong was sworn in 10 days ago but has already traveled to Fiji as her centre-left government tries to restore strained ties with its Pacific neighbours.

She is expected to visit Tonga later this week, as is China’s foreign minister Wang Yi concludes a 10-day island-hopping tour of the Pacific.

Wang launched a radically increased role for China in regional security, much to the chagrin of the United States and Australia.

“We believe that regional security is an issue for the Pacific family,” Wong said.

Although Wang failed to garner support for a regional security deal that would have seen Beijing play a much bigger role in sensitive areas including policing and cybersecurity, he signed a series of agreements specific to each country during his trip.

In Papua New Guinea, he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation in “green development” with authorities in Port Moresby on Friday.

Mata’afa said there had been a “distortion” of some agreements signed by China in the region.

“The signing that took place here last week,” she said, was for “bilateral programs, projects, most of which started several years ago.”

She said Samoa would oppose a regional pact with China until the region – some of which recognize Taiwan rather than Beijing – discusses the matter collectively.

“Our position was that you can’t have a regional deal when the region hasn’t come together to discuss it,” she said.

“(To) have an expectation that there would be a decision or an overall outcome was something that, you know, we couldn’t accept.”