Australia and New Zealand have been stepping up coordination with Japan and the United States over Pacific island states in the face of growing Chinese influence in a region that has traditionally been considered within the Oceanian powers' sphere of influence.

In recent years, Beijing has increasingly invested in the South Pacific with loans for infrastructure projects under President Xi Jinping's massive "Belt and Road" initiative, a move Canberra and Wellington perceive as a direct challenge to their largely unrivaled clout.

Citing Sri Lanka — which has effectively ceded a new port to China to service an unsustainable level of debt from the country — as an example, analysts have expressed concern that Beijing might be using loans leverage to gain strategic concessions in the resource-rich, strategically important region.