If this forum, which brings together defense ministers from Asia and around the world, has been dominated by tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan, the Fiji Minister of Defense, Inia Seruiratu, preferred discuss the threat posed by climate change to his country, which is regularly hit by cyclones.
“Machine guns, fighter jets, ships… are not our primary security concern,” he told hundreds of delegates attending the event in Singapore.
“The greatest threat to our very existence is (..) devastating man-made climate change. It threatens our hopes and dreams of prosperity,” he said.
“Waves are crashing at our doorsteps, winds are battering our homes, we are beset by this enemy from all sides,” the minister continued, urging other countries to support Fiji’s efforts to combat climate change.
In September, this Pacific archipelago passed a law declaring a climate emergency and mentioning a legal framework for the nation’s response to it.
Other island nations in this region also face threats from climate change. These range from cyclones, which are becoming more regular and powerful, to rising waters.
Ahead of the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, held in November 2021, Pacific nations, on the front lines of suffering the consequences of global warming, had urged rich, industrialized countries to do more.
Fiji is among ten Pacific nations that last month rejected China’s proposal for a sweeping security pact, fearing it was designed to draw them into Beijing’s orbit.
The failure of this project, which would have directly called into question the influence of the United States and its allies in this strategically vital region, constituted a major political setback for Beijing.