In recent years, Canberra has even ramped up aid to the region to curtail Chinese influence. In 2018, it launched the “Pacific Step-up” policy to re-engage with its “Pacific family”. It also started a multi-billion dollar infrastructure fund, widely seen as a counter to China’s loans and spends in the region.
But earlier this year, China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, a move that Australia’s Labor party called “the worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific” in 80 years.
Last week, Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong visited Fiji, coinciding with Mr Yi’s trip – a sign of growing competition between the two countries.
Then on Thursday Ms Wong travelled to Samoa, her second visit to the Pacific since being sworn in earlier last month, where she announced a new eight-year partnership that included Australia’s donation of a new maritime patrol boat.