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Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy expresses concern to China’s enforcement participation in Pacific islands, emphasising the importance of indigenous security services. This stance comes after reports of Chinese police working in Kiribati. The United States shares worries and warns against Chinese security aid in the region.

Following Reuters’ revelation that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy stated that China should have “no role” in policing the Pacific Islands, and that Australia will train more local security personnel to fill shortages.

The US warned Pacific Island nations on Monday against receiving assistance from Chinese security forces, after Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that uniformed Chinese officers were assisting its police in community policing and a crime database programme.

There are no Australian police in Kiribati, but Canberra has committed to fund a new police radio network, a police barracks, and two marine security experts to help Kiribati police manage a donated patrol boat.

Kiribati is a republic of 115,000 people whose closest island is 2,160 kilometres (1,340 miles) south of Honolulu, and the announcement of Chinese police working there comes as Beijing renews its push to strengthen security relations in the Pacific Islands amid a growing competition with the United States.

“We are aware that they [China] are seeking a greater security role in the Pacific, and we have been consistent in our view that there is no role for China in policing, or broader security, in the Pacific,” Conroy told Reuters on Thursday.

Pacific Island leaders pledged to repair any security gaps within the “Pacific family” during a summit of the Pacific Island Forum regional grouping in 2022, he said.

Chinese police officers have been stationed in the Solomon Islands since 2022.

Conroy stated that Australia would like to see police from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and other Pacific states play a more active part in assisting island neighbours with security, as they had done for the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.

Canberra is sponsoring a regional police training centre in Papua New Guinea for this purpose, he stated.

“That is a paradigm for the future, when the Pacific region works together to assist the security requirements and aspirations of other Pacific countries. “Australia plays a role, but we may not always lead it,” he explained.

The US State Department warned Pacific Island countries on Monday against importing security forces from China, which “risks fueling regional and international tensions,” while many US Senators raised worry about Chinese police in Kiribati.

China has not responded to Reuters’ request for comment on the participation of its police in Kiribati.

China’s ambassador to Australia stated last month that China had a policy to establish policing links with Pacific Island countries to assist maintain social order, which should not cause Australia concern.

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