When, in November 1519, Ferdinand Magellan rounded the southern tip of South America through the straits that bear his name and entered a vast, and previously unexplored, ocean, its waters were so tranquil he named it "Pacific". It was anything but. The vast stretch of water regularly spawns some of the most violent and dangerous seas known to humankind.
The home to a diverse range of peoples whose navigational skills put the Vikings to shame, it was dotted with thousands of islands that could act as stepping stones between Asia and Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. This accident of geography assumed great strategic importance during the War in the Pacific from 1941 to 1945.
Today, while the West is firmly allied with Japan, a resurgent China wants to extend its influence across the region. It is not doing this, despite claims to the contrary, out of a sense of altruism. The intention, as the recent security deal with the Solomon Islands that raised the prospect of a People's Liberation Army Navy base less than 2000 kilometres from Australia's eastern seaboard, is strategic.
Beijing knows the more influence it has over South Pacific real estate the harder it becomes for the US and Australia to defend either the region, or themselves.
Even New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern, expressed concern over the Chinese attempt to negotiate an agreement on security and trade with the 10 members of the Pacific Islands Forum this week.
"I see [the draft] communique as China's trying to increase its engagement with sovereign nations, but expanding into a space that - actually the need around security arrangements - we are able to meet within our region," she said in Washington.
Ms Ardern, like Australia, is of the view that if and when Pacific nations need assistance to cope with civil unrest or acts of aggression from without, they know Australia and New Zealand will provide it with no strings attached.
The Pacific leaders themselves, despite attempts by some commentators to portray men such as the Prime Minister of the Solomons, Mr Manasseh Sogavare, as open to under the table influence, are skilful politicians long versed in the challenges of governing complex archipelagos and committed to peace.
Consider the alacrity with which the Pacific Islands Forum rejected the proposed agreement set out in Beijing's draft communique on Monday. Surangel Whipps Jr, the President of Palau, nailed it when he warned against any steps that might lead to militarisation of the region and a new cold war: "We want to have peace and security in the region, and we don't want to go through what we went through in World War II, so when we see these kinds of activities it does raise a concern for us".
The message to China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was an unambiguous "thanks, but no thanks".
While Mr Wang has played down the rebuff, China has had to return to the drawing board with a new "position paper" that makes no mention of free trade, joint policing or cybersecurity.
Although Foreign Minister Penny Wong has been canny enough to avoid any suggestion her swift visit to the region may have influenced the PIF it's not unreasonable to assume it was a factor.
After all, as Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general Henry Puna tweeted: "[it] speaks volumes that her first bilateral visit as Foreign Minister is to our Blue Pacific region".
There is reason to hope, thanks to renewed interest and a stronger position on climate change, that after almost a decade of neglect, the tide in Australia's relationship with the "Pacific family" is on the turn.
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