As China widens its marine reach, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that France and South Pacific nations will establish a South Pacific coastguard network to combat “predatory” behavior, which an aide claimed was aimed at illicit fishing.
To offset China’s influence, the US and its allies, notably France, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, are stepping up their efforts in the Pacific.
Pacific islands, despite their small land mass, control enormous swathes of resource-rich water known as Exclusive Economic Zones, constituting a formidable barrier between the Americas and Asia.
“To better cope with the predatory logic we are all victims of, I want to boost our maritime cooperation in the South Pacific,” Macron said after a video conference with the leaders of Australia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and representatives of New Zealand and other Pacific nations.
“We are going to launch a network of coastguards for the South Pacific around three main objectives: information sharing, operational cooperation and training,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Macron did not mention China. When asked if the policy was geared at slowing China’s expansion, a French presidential adviser replied it was directed at illicit fishing, which was “for the most part due to private actors.”
China’s fishing fleets, which range from privately owned boats to commercial trawlers owned by publicly traded firms, have been venturing farther into Southeast Asian waters in quest of fresh fishing grounds as stocks near home dwindle.
They’ve entered contested waters, raising diplomatic tensions with countries all around the West Philippine Sea, as well as Argentina.
France, which possesses island possessions in the Indo-Pacific such as Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia in the Pacific, has strengthened defense ties with Australia and India in an effort to resist Chinese influence in the region.