September 5, 2018 / 9:31 AM / 2 years ago

Australia to launch new Pacific security center from next year

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia will set up a center for strategic analysis of information to help the Pacific region tackle security threats such as illegal fishing, people smuggling and drug trafficking, its foreign minister said on Thursday.

The center, to be established from mid-2019, is among a raft of measures Australia is adopting as it boosts security commitments in the region, where China’s influence is growing.

“The new Pacific Fusion Centre will provide strategic analysis of information to help strengthen maritime domain awareness and provide security alerts and advice for Pacific security agencies,” Marise Payne said in a statement.

It will add to Australia’s Pacific maritime security program to provide the region with 21 new Guardian-class patrol boats over the next five years, an aerial surveillance package, and a security college due to be set up early next year.

The island nation of Nauru is hosting leaders of 18 Pacific nations and delegations from non-member countries such as China and the United States at a time of growing tension and rivalry in a key strategic region with access to swathes of resource-rich ocean.

The United States, Australia, France and Britain aim to open new embassies in the Pacific, boost staffing levels, and engage more frequently with leaders of island nations to counter China’s rising regional influence.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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