During his first Senate hearing as National Chief of Staff [CEMM]Admiral Nicolas Fougeur insisted on the “access problem” by provoking initial reactions [RETEX] On the crisis in the Middle East and, more broadly, on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Our access is no longer guaranteed by default,” CEMM said. This observation also applies to other regions. He continued: “It is a strategy that I want to develop for the Navy based on this question: What are the access points in the world that, depending on the expected crises, will be guaranteed to us on the day the situation deteriorates.” “We must now consider how to enhance our reach,” Admiral Fouguer concluded.
Hence the “road map” recently adopted by France and Australia, which provides for mutual access to their military bases located in the Indo-Pacific region. This is also the meaning of the agreement just announced by the Ministry of the Armed Forces on military cooperation with the Republic of Fiji.
Signed on the sidelines of the “South Pacific Defense Ministers’ Meeting” [SPDMM] This agreement between France and Fiji, which brought together in Noumea, the defense ministers of the South Pacific countries from 4 to 6 December, aims in particular to determine the status of forces. [SOFA – Status of Forces Agreement] To facilitate cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries [visites, échanges d’expérience, formation, soutien, fourniture d’aide d’urgence, etc].
Note that interactions between French forces and Fijian forces take place quite regularly, as happened again this year, with the amphibious helicopter carrier. [PHA] Dixmude and the frigate La Fayette, as part of the Jeanne d’Arc 2023 mission.
In addition, the upcoming opening of a defense mission within the French Embassy in Suva was also announced, in order to allow “strengthening exchanges on matters of defense policy and military cooperation.” As the Department of the Armed Forces noted, this will be “the second defense mission established in the South Pacific, following the Canberra mission in Australia.”
The defense agreement was signed days after Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka raised the prospect of closer economic ties with China, which seeks to expand its influence in the South Pacific.
“Modernizing port facilities and shipyards in Fiji is a key goal of sustainable economic development. […] “I anticipate potential cooperation with China as part of this endeavour,” Mr. Rabuka said, following an interview with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November.
In addition, Beijing also offered security assistance to Suva… but the Fiji Prime Minister rejected this offer. Regarding these matters, he said, “I prefer to deal with traditional friends.”
With approximately 4,500 active military personnel and a budget of $50 million, the Fijian Armed Forces have very modest capabilities, limited to nine old-fashioned patrol boats and about two dozen Bushmaster armored vehicles. Its air component was inactivated after the loss of its only two helicopters [1 Dauphin et 1 Écureuil] In the 1990’s.
Photo: National Navy
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