Beijing has been accused of risking a new "Cold War" with the West after it emerged that China's foreign minister is pursuing a regional deal with almost a dozen Pacific islands including heightened security co-operation.
The five-year plan signals Beijing's intent to significantly expand its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region. It is set to be discussed by Wang Yi and his Pacific counterparts in Fiji on May 30, as China's foreign minister embarks on a tour of the region starting on Thursday.
But in a letter sent to 21 Pacific leaders, David Panuelo, the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, said his nation would argue the "pre-determined joint communique" should be rejected because it could prompt a new "Cold War" between China and the West, according to Reuters.
The plan would shift Pacific Islands that hold diplomatic relations with China "very close into Beijing's orbit, intrinsically tying the whole of our economies and societies to them", he added.
Fears are growing that up to 10 Pacific nations could enter a security pact similar to one agreed by the Solomon Islands and China last month that has heightened concerns that Beijing wants to establish a naval base on the strategic Pacific territory.
The new plan will launch newly elected Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who was sworn into office on Monday, into an early face-off with Wang.
"China has made its intentions clear. So too are the intentions of the new Australian government," Wong said in a message sent to the Sydney Morning Herald from the government plane.
Wong has indicated the Pacific will be a top foreign policy priority for Canberra after describing the Solomons deal – which could allow Chinese naval warships to dock less than 1200km from the Australian coast – as the biggest Australian strategic blunder since World War II.
Beijing has rejected protests against its deal with Honiara, denying it will threaten Australia's security and accusing western countries of interfering in the Solomons' sovereign decision-making.
Wang arrives in Honiara, the Solomons' capital, on Thursday to kick off a sweeping tour of eight Pacific Island nations that China holds diplomatic ties with.
On Thursday, Wong will make her own trip to Fiji, on the first of up to a dozen visits to the Pacific over the next six weeks.
The "China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision" draft document aims to "strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the fields of traditional and non-traditional security" as well as boosting co-operation between police forces and on building cybersecurity systems and data networks.
It is also proving contentious within the Pacific nations themselves.
US and China compete for influence
FSM leader Panuelo has long warned of the risk of Pacific nations being caught in geopolitical conflict as the US and China compete for influence in the region.
His country is one of three nations closely linked to the United States through treaties known as Compacts of Free Association (COFA), that grant the Pentagon virtually unrestricted military access in exchange for a security guarantee, but it also has formal relations with China.
In a Telegraph interview in October, Panuelo acknowledged the security challenge but said he hoped to straddle the interests of the competing superpowers, urging them to co-operate on climate change.
"With the US and China, I tell them to compete but on responsible terms. Compete on trade and improving our environment," he said, adding that the climate crisis trumped traditional security as the world's "greatest existential threat".