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Crowded and complex: The changing geopolitics of the South Pacific

By Joanne Wallis

Australia faces an increasingly crowded and complex geopolitical environment in the South Pacific. While the most important external powers in the region have traditionally been Australia, New Zealand, the US and France, a number of new powers are increasingly active, most notably China, Russia, Indonesia, Japan and India. South Pacific states, particularly Papua New Guinea and Fiji, are emerging as regional powers to constrain Australian influence. South Pacific states are also becoming more active on the international stage, further taking them outside Australia’s and their other traditional partners’ sphere of influence.

The geopolitical environment in the South Pacific has implications for Australia’s strategic interest in ensuring stability, security and cohesion in the region. If Australia is going to ensure that it’s able to respond to the complex and crowded geopolitics of the South Pacific, it needs to prioritise the region in a clear, consistent and sustained way in its foreign and strategic policy planning.