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Australia Launches New College to Strengthen Pacific Security Amid Increasing China Influence

Australia has launched a first-ever specialist college that aims to boost security cooperation in the Pacific, amid increasing influence from Beijing in the region.

The Australia Pacific Security College (APSC) was formally launched Wednesday at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. It will be funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was designed in consultation with Pacific Island nations.

The launch of the specialist security college comes amid increasing investment from Beijing in the Pacific. In recent years, Beijing has increasingly financed infrastructure projects in the Pacific under its “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI), a loan program rolled out in 2013 that seeks to invest in infrastructure projects throughout the world. The BRI has been described as a “dangerous debt diplomacy” effort that has the potential to generate debt sustainability problems in developing countries, the Lowy Institute noted in a report in October.

Alex Hawke, Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, said the college is a “critical part” of the Australian governments Pacific Step-Up initiative, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in November 2018 as part of efforts to undercut Chinas influence in the Pacific region.

Australias Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, formally launched the Australia Pacific Security College in Canberra, Australia on Nov. 13, 2019.
Australias Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, formally launched the Australia Pacific Security College in Canberra, Australia on Nov. 13, 2019.
Australias Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, formally launched the Australia Pacific Security College in Canberra, Australia on Nov. 13, 2019. (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

“The Australia Pacific Security College is a critical part of the Governments Pacific Step-up,” Hawke said in a statement. “It will support the training of mid and senior-level Pacific officials in skills, capabilities, and areas of knowledge aligned with the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security.”

The Pacific Islands Forum, including Australia, adopted the Boe Declaration on Regional Security in September 2018. According to the DFAT website, the declaration “recognises an expanded concept of security, including human, cyber and environmental security, and guides regional responses to emerging security issues.”

Member countries and observers from the #BluePacific have gathered today for the FOC Meeting on Regional Security incl the launch of the Boe Action Plan. The 2018 Boe Declaration on regional security affirms climate change as the single greatest threat to peoples of the Pacific pic.twitter.com/SI0sBt5pjp

— Pacific Islands Forum (@ForumSEC) October 14, 2019

Hawke said that the APSC will create a network of security experts that serve as a “technical advice pool” to support the development and implementation of security policies in Pacific Islands Forum countries.

“And [the College] will establish an active alumni network of security decision-makers to strengthen networks across Pacific Island countries and agencies to facilitate closer collaboration on regional security issues,” he added.

The specialist college was first announced back in August by Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and was first suggested in a

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