The ABC has been told that dialogue partners meetings will not be held during the Forum, effectively locking out politicians and officials from countries outside the region
ABC News | Edited extracts
CANBERRA - The Pacific's peak diplomatic body looks set to exclude the United States, China and several other major countries from a crucial leaders meeting in Fiji next month.
The move has been analysed as helping to shelter the Pacific Islands from intensifying geostrategic competition in the region.
Australia is a full member of the forum and prime minister Anthony Albanese has already said he will attend the meeting in Suva.
The Forum has 21 ‘dialogue partners’, including the United States, China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, India, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
But the ABC has been told that this year in-person dialogue partners meeting will not be held during the Forum.
This effectively locks out politicians and officials from countries outside the region.
One Pacific source said this would ensure that Pacific leaders had ‘space’ to resolve issues and decide on key priorities without having to navigate meetings with powerful outside players jostling for influence.
The meeting in Suva is also significant because it will be the first face-to-face gathering since the 2019, when Scott Morrison clashed with his Pacific counterparts over climate change.
Leaders will have to confront several sensitive geopolitical questions when they meet.
Australia has already flagged it wants the meeting to discuss the security pact that Solomon Islands has signed with China, which Canberra fears will open the door to a Chinese military presence down the track.
Samoa's prime minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa has also said that she would like the forum to discuss China's contentious push for a region-wide agreement with 10 Pacific states.
Solomon Islands has publicly backed the agreement, but other Pacific Island leaders have warned it could spark a new Cold War in the region and undermine the sovereignty of Pacific states.