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Door open for deals with other Pacific nations: Wong

Andrew Brown -

Australia has left the door open for other Pacific nations to sign up to security agreements following a bipartisan deal with Tuvalu, Foreign Minister Penny Wong says.

Under the agreement, Tuvalu residents facing displacement from climate change will be able to resettle in Australia.

Australia will take in 280 people each year, with the Pacific nation having a population of about 11,000 people.

As part of the elevated bilateral partnership between the countries, Australia will have a veto over Tuvalu's security arrangements with other countries.

The terms of what areas would be defined as being in the security sector are still being worked through.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says Australia is prepared to be a 'partner of choice' in the Pacific.

Senator Wong said the option was open for other countries in the region to sign similar agreements with Australia, amid growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

"The offer is there from Australia, I think what that says is we're prepared to be a real partner of choice, an engaged partner, but obviously, it's up to those countries," she told ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.

"What (the Tuvalu agreement) does signal is how we are prepared to approach our membership of the Pacific family."

The foreign minister denied the deal was in direct response to China signing security deals with other Pacific nations such as the Solomon Islands.

"We recognise we live in a more contested region and we have to work harder to be a partner of choice," she said.

"This is a giant leap forward in our joint mission to assure security, prosperity and stability in the region."

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles denied the agreement would anger China and described it as a watershed moment.

Mr Marles said the deal would be received well by other countries, despite China having ambitions in the region.

"The Pacific is a place of greater geo-strategic contest, there's no doubt about that, and we seek to be the natural partner of choice for countries in the Pacific," he told Sky News on Sunday.

"We were engaging with countries in the region and we spoke with other countries in the region about what we were doing."

Australia will take in 280 people from Tuvalu per year under the security agreement.

The deputy prime minister said Australia had a responsibility to ensure the Pacific did not become the least developed part of the world.

"This is a step which I hope will be welcomed within the Pacific because it does represent a very significant step up in Australia's already significant engagement in the Pacific," he said.

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said he welcomed any agreement that deepened ties with the Pacific.

"There is a geopolitical contest ongoing in the Indo-Pacific region, the great game is on," he told Sky News.

"We really need to work harder to build our relationships with those Pacific Island countries."

Meanwhile, Australia will send about 100 federal police officers as part of an international assistance force in the Solomon Islands ahead of the 2023 Pacific Games.

Australia provided $17 million as part of a partnership for the Games, which get under way on November 19.

Federal police will work with officers from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands to provide security at the sporting event.

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