Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi (right) and Samoan prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa attend an agreement signing ceremony between the two countries in Apia. Photograph: Vaitogi Asuisui Matafeo/Samoa Observer/AFP/Getty Images

APIA (THE GUARDIAN) —Samoa signed a bilateral agreement with China on Saturday, promising “greater collaboration”, as Beijing’s foreign minister continues a tour of the Pacific that has sparked concern among western allies.

The deal’s details are unclear, and come midway through a Chinese delegation’s eight-nation trip – but an earlier leaked draft agreement sent to several Pacific countries outlined plans to expand security and economic engagement.

The mission has prompted western leaders to urge regional counterparts to spurn any Chinese attempt to extend its security reach across the region.

The Samoan government confirmed in a statement on Saturday that the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, and the Samoan prime minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, had met and discussed “climate change, the pandemic and peace and security”.

Local media were invited to witness the signing of a deal, but no questions were taken. Previously, journalists seeking to cover the Solomon Islands leg of Wang’s tour for international outlets said they were blocked from attending press events, while those journalists allowed access were extremely limited in their ability to ask questions.

The Samoan statement said China would continue to provide infrastructural development support to various Samoan sectors and there would be a new framework for future projects “to be determined and mutually agreed”.

“Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments,” the release said.

While not addressing the Samoa-China agreement specifically, the newly elected Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said on Saturday the previous federal government had “dropped the ball” in its dealings with Pacific nations.

“The truth is, the former government had a submission from [the department of] foreign affairs and trade, backed by the former foreign minister at the time Marise Payne, for increased aid in the Pacific, and they ignored,” he said.

“We’ll be proactive in the region and we want to engage. Australia has been the partner of choice for a long period of time in the Pacific and we continue to do that,” he said …. PACNEWS

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