SIGATOKA (THE PRINT) — A Chinese military delegation has joined a U.S-hosted conference of defense chiefs in the Pacific Islands nation of Fiji, where Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has called for dialogue and said the Pacific should be a “zone of peace”.

General Xu Qiling, deputy chief of staff in the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, is leading the Chinese delegation at the annual Indo Pacific Chiefs of Defence Conference, Fiji government statements showed.

The U.S commander of the Indo Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, and Fiji’s military commander, Major General Jone Logavatu Kalouniwai, are hosting the meeting, with 27 nations from the region taking part.

The U.S Indo Pacific Command and Chinese defence ministry did not immediately comment on whether the Chinese and U.S. delegations would hold a bilateral meeting.

Frozen high-level military dialogue between the U.S. and China has come under scrutiny this year.

China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu and U.S Secretary of State Lloyd Austin did not meet at a security conference in Singapore in June, which both attended. China turned down a U.S offer of a meeting.

Rabuka said in an opening speech on Monday it was a critical juncture for the region and Fiji wanted it to be a “zone of peace” despite increasing geopolitical tensions.

“The rules based order is our shield against aggression and it is our duty to bolster and defend it vigorously,” he said.

Strategic competition can coexist with mutual respect, he said.

“Only by fostering trust and dialogue can we overcome the complexities of an interconnected world.”

Australia’s defence chief, Angus Campbell, is also attending the three-day conference…. PACNEWS

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