Fiji's Minister of Defense, Inia Batikoto Seruiratu, speaks at a plenary session during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, June 12, 2022. (DANIAL HAKIM / AP)
SINGAPORE – Fiji's defense minister said on Sunday that climate change posed the biggest security threat in the Asia-Pacific region, a shift in tone at a defense summit that has been dominated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The low-lying Pacific islands, which include Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, are some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the extreme weather events caused by climate change.
Fiji has been battered by a series of tropical cyclones in recent years, causing devastating flooding that has displaced thousands from their homes and hobbled the island's economy
Fiji has been battered by a series of tropical cyclones in recent years, causing devastating flooding that has displaced thousands from their homes and hobbled the island's economy.
"In our blue Pacific continent, machine guns, fighter jets, grey ships and green battalions are not our primary security concern," Inia Seruiratu, Fiji's Minister for Defense, said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top security meeting.
"The single greatest threat to our very existence is climate change. It threatens our very hopes and dreams of prosperity."
Seruiratu played down concerns about a competition for influence in the Pacific islands while highlighting his country's willingness to work with a range of countries.
READ MORE: Fiji to highlight Pacific climate plight at German summit
"In Fiji, we are not threatened by geopolitical competition," Seruiratu said in his speech. "We have to adapt how we work and who we work with to achieve stability."
This photo taken on December 10, 2020 and released by Reef Explorer Fiji shows and an aerial view of the Fiji's Coral Coast. (REEF EXPLORER FIJI / AFP)