The Pacific Island countries turned down a bold Chinese proposal to have a region-wide agreement after a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterparts in Fiji.

China was offering the Pacific states a sweeping trade and security deal that covered free trade, police coordination, cybersecurity, and disaster response. Endorsing the draft proposal was part of Wang’s 10-day diplomatic tour in the region.

The draft document said that China and the Pacific Islands will “strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the fields of traditional and nontraditional security.”

“China will hold intermediate and high-level police training for Pacific Island Countries through bilateral and multilateral means,” it further wrote.

A joint media conference attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama (Fijian Government/Twitter)

Wang’s trip began last Thursday in the Solomon Islands, which has been in the headlines since April after its Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced his country’s intent to sign a controversial security deal with Beijing. The deal sparked concerns about a possible Chinese military base in the island nation.

The Pacific Islands are strategically located northeast of Australia. Military analysts have long considered the region as a crucial connecting route to the United States island territory of Guam and allied Australia. Both countries have grown wary over the increased Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea as well as in Pacific waters.

Meanwhile, countries within the contested region have been more entangled with climate change rather than geopolitics, and are concerned they might become pawns in a greater power struggle between larger countries.

In a letter addressed to 22 other Pacific Island leaders, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia David Panuelo expressed his intention to not endorse the deal and cautioned his counterparts that it will drag the region “very close into Beijing’s orbit.”