The United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand ended military exercises in Fiji this week as allies try to stem China’s growing influence in the region.
The maneuver, dubbed “Operation Cartwheel” and which began on September 12, will end on Friday, the US embassy in Fiji’s capital Suva said in an email on Wednesday.
US Navy Commander Victor Lang said the name of the maneuver is similar to the operation launched by the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji – then a British colony – against the Japanese in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China “has no objection to defense cooperation between the countries concerned.”
“However, cooperation should not be directed against third parties,” Wang told reporters in Beijing.
The United States has promised greater involvement in the Pacific Ocean after China and the Solomon Islands signed a bilateral security agreement in May that raised concerns about the potential for a Chinese naval base in the region.
US Vice President Kamala Harris announced during a South Pacific summit in Suva in July that the United States would open embassies in Tonga and Kiribati. He also announced a tripling of a total of $60 million in US aid to the fishing industry in the region.
The new Australian government, elected in May, is also taking steps towards greater cooperation with its neighbours.
In response to a possible Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands, the government plans to set up a defense academy to train neighboring forces.
Australia remembered its battle during World War II on Wednesday, when divers found an unexploded bomb off the coast of the northern city of Darwin. Darwin was the victim of a Japanese bombing on February 19, 1942.
A perimeter is set up around Darwin Harbor while experts remove the apparent explosive device.