Germany’s Pacific ambitions (III)

Following foreign and military policy talks with New Zealand, Baerbock goes to Fiji, a hotspot of the power struggle with China. The West is leveraging colonial possessions and structures in the Pacific.

BERLIN/AUCKLAND/SUVA (own report) - Following talks in New Zealand on joint foreign and military policy steps against China, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Fiji yesterday, Sunday. Baerbock had previously met with her counterpart in New Zealand and with the country’s Defence Minister. They exchanged views on, not least, the AUKUS pact. This arrangement provides for extremely close arms industry cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia to counter the rise of China in the region. New Zealand has recently elected an ultra-conservative government that is pushing for partial accession to the AUKUS pact, excluding the nuclear component of that alliance. Baerbock indicated her support for this move. The day before, she had already endorsed the pact in Australia. Germany itself will soon be sending warships and fighter jets to the region for wide-ranging war exercises. In Fiji, which has now become a focus of the increasingly tense power struggle between the West and China, Baerbock seeks to help block Chinese advances. The mainstream media in Germany have glossed over this dangerous power struggle and its military dimension, preferring photo ops of Baerbock returning objects once stolen from indigenous Australians and reports of German climate projects in the Pacific.

The Five Eyes

In recent years New Zealand has begun to re-engage more closely with the United States in the context of a power struggle between the West and China. Last year, the outgoing Labour government had adopted the country’s first National Security Strategy. This envisages a “robust network of partnerships” to be forged with Australia and other countries, including, of course, the US: “sustained engagement by the United States and other like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific and Pacific is critical for New Zealand’s security.”[1] Although New Zealand wants to continue to cooperate with China, it is clearly distancing itself from Beijing, not least in view of China’s new influence across the Pacific. The new government, which has been in office since November 2023, is described by observers as “the country’s most right-wing government in a generation”.[2] At the end of 2023, Wellington explicitly confirmed that it would not just continue but intensify its rapprochement with the US and align its foreign and military policy accordingly. The right-wing coalition also wants to expand cooperation within the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand), which expressly includes closer military cooperation with the Five Eyes allies.[3]

The AUKUS expansion

One of the focuses of the debate is on New Zealand’s possible accession to the AUKUS pact, a trilateral security pact concluded by the US, the UK and Australia in September 2021. It provides for close cooperation in the construction of eight nuclear submarines for Australia (Pillar 1), as well as intensive technology collaboration between the respective industrial-military complexes (Pillar 2). Pillar 1 has made AUKUS unpopular in the Pacific island states. They have long declared themselves a nuclear-free zone as a reaction to the years of multiple nuclear weapons tests by the US, the UK and France. A nuclear strategy is considered unpalatable to most New Zealanders. The country has been nuclear-free since 1984. Wellington is now considering joining Pillar 2 of the AUKUS pact.[4] German Foreign Minister Baerbock had already signalled Berlin’s support for AUKUS during her visit to Australia [5] [6] and repeated this endorsement during New Zealand talks. The pact could, she is quoted as saying on her trip, help Wellington to protect the “rules-based world order”.[7] Baerbock also had talks on foreign and military policy issues with her counterpart, Winston Peters from the far-right New Zealand First party, and with Defence Minister Judith Collins.

Police cooperation with China

Completing her trip to the Pacific, Baerbock arrived in Fiji yesterday, Sunday, where she is the first German Foreign Minister ever to visit the archipelago. Like all Pacific island states, Fiji is currently becoming increasingly embroiled in the power struggle between China and the West. The most recent development of concern to the West is a deal on police cooperation. It was concluded between Fiji and the People’s Republic back in 2011 and provides for the training of police officers from Fiji in China. It also covers the supply of Chinese equipment to the island state and the embedding of Chinese police officers in the local police force. While China’s police cooperation arrangement with Fiji may be the most far-reaching it is not the only one in the islands of the Pacific. For example, Beijing is building a police academy in Samoa, which is due to be completed this year.[8] Last year, the Chinese also signed a police cooperation deal with the Solomon Islands, concluded in the wake of an important security agreement ( reported [9]). In January, Papua New Guinea, too, said it was in talks with China on security and police cooperation,[10] while reports emerged in February that Beijing was supporting the Kiribati police force.

Military cooperation with New Zealand

Any form of police and intelligence cooperation between China and the Pacific island states is angrily opposed by the West. This is currently an issue in Fiji, the most populous Pacific state east of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with around 950,000 inhabitants. Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who took office at the end of 2022 after a narrow election victory, had initially announced that he would strongly curb Fiji’s cooperation with China. I particular, he wanted to put a stop to collaboration under the policing support deal. A formal year-long review of the agreement then took place, accompanied by massive Western pressure on Fiji’s government to drop it. Yet Fiji recently announced that it would restore the agreement and continue its cooperation – although it was decided to discontinue for the time being the embedding of Chinese police personnel in Fiji’s security forces.[11] The fact that Fiji is sticking to the agreement in principle is seen as a defeat for the West. This is why Baerbock wants to meet Rabuka in Fiji. She already visited a military base yesterday. The island state hosts, from time to time, armed forces on international missions. New Zealand, for its part, signed an agreement on closer military cooperation with Fiji in June last year.[12]

Colonies in the 21st century

In their interventions in the power struggles taking place across the island world of the Pacific Western states are still leveraging colonial possessions and structures. New Zealand, for example, insists on its ownership of Tokelau. The archipelago of three atolls is listed by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory belonging to New Zealand. That list was drawn up in 1946 to document and encourage the process of decolonisation. At the time it included numerous colonies of European nations that have long since become independent. Tokelau is still not. In 2006 and 2007 referenda were held there, resulting in a clear majority in favour of transitioning to self-government. But since the outcome fell a few votes short of the two-thirds majority considered by Wellington to be necessary, the archipelago has remained a New Zealand colony. New Zealand regularly holds joint military exercises with the French armed forces stationed on France’s nearby colony of New Caledonia. It also participates in manoeuvres on Guam, a US-owned Pacific archipelago that is also classified by the UN as a non-self-governing territory requiring decolonisation. The colonial picture is completed by fact that the current ultra-right-wing coalition government of New Zealand – a country whose head of state, Charles III, resides in London – is now pushing to restrict the rights of the indigenous Pacific population, the Maori.[13] will shortly be reporting on colonies that are still ruled by Western, mostly European, countries that are identified by the United Nations as territories requiring decolonisation, with special consideration to Germany’s role in helping to consolidate colonial structures.


Previous articles, in German, on the subject: Deutschlands Pazifikambitionen and Deutschlands Pazifikambitionen (II).


[1] Secure Together. Tō Tātou Korowai Manaaki. New Zealand’s National Security Strategy 2023-2028. Te Rautaki Whakamaru Ā-motu O Aotearoa 2023-2028. Wellington 2023.

[2] Natasha Frost: New Zealand Elects Its Most Conservative Government in Decades. 14.10.2023.

[3] Secure Together. Tō Tātou Korowai Manaaki. New Zealand’s National Security Strategy 2023-2028. Te Rautaki Whakamaru Ā-motu O Aotearoa 2023-2028. Wellington 2023.

[4] Tim Fish: New Zealand in AUKUS ‘no guarantee’, but discussions active: Defense minister. 18.03.2024.

[5] See also: Die Vereinigte Front gegen China (II).

[6] Paul Starick: Germany’s Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock endorses Australian nuclear-powered submarines. 03.05.2024.

[7] Zane Small: AUKUS, cyber-security discussed as New Zealand, Germany strengthen ties. 04.05.2024.

[8] Samoa PM turns first sod on new Police Academy. 26.10.2022.

[9] See also: Deutschlands Pazifikambitionen (II).

[10] Papua New Guinea in talks with China on security cooperation, foreign minister says. 29.01.2024.

[11] Ivamere Nataro: Fiji to stick with China police deal after review, home affairs minister says. 15.03.2024.

[12] New Zealand and Fiji strengthen defence relationship. 14.06.2023.

[13] Natasha Frost: In Rightward Shift, New Zealand Reconsiders Pro-Maori Policies. 16.12.2023.