The visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Pacific Islands Forum this week will be fleeting, but it's more than a nod to China's growing influence in the region.
Hours before the forum opened in the Cook Islands on Tuesday, a spokeswoman finally confirmed Mrs Clinton would attend the post-forum dialogue on Friday, leading the highest-level US delegation in the history of the forum.
Top Chinese officials are also attending the talks - and it's no secret the two giants of the Pacific rim are jockeying to be better friends to Pacific nations in terms of aid and development.
Fiji - and China's friendship with its military-led government - will be a point of discussion in Ms Clinton's separate talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand leader John Key in Rarotonga.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says no one should be surprised China has the Pacific in its sights as it seeks to expand its influence.
He said China has already expanded its influence in Africa and Latin America, and as it continues to grow economically the Pacific "won't be an exception".
"Australia shouldn't express surprise that China will explore diplomatic relations and run an active aid program in the Pacific," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
"It's only a matter of time before the Chinese aid profile in the Pacific ... will match more closely that of OECD nations."
"It's more likely to be attuned to the interests of the country. It won't be the old pattern of a Chinese port or a Chinese road leading to a Chinese mine."
Mr Key says China is "growing tentacles around the world", but it's not a concern for New Zealand.
"From New Zealand's point of view, we don't seek to try and stop countries giving aid to other countries, but where we have a particular level of expertise - like the Pacific - what New Zealand's been trying to do is work alongside those partners so that the aid that is given is beneficial," he told media.
Even if New Zealand didn't like China's growing footprint, "it's not about to stop", Mr Key told reporters.
"What we'd rather do is focus our energy to making sure that the aid is constructively delivered."
Ms Gillard was less inclined to be drawn on whether China was a key factor in Mrs Clinton's forum visit as the US rebuilds its engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.
"The United States has announced its re-balance towards the Asia-Pacific and it's in Australia's interests, it's in the interests of the region, for America to be deeply engaged," she told media.
When they meet on Wednesday morning (Thursday AEST), Ms Gillard and Mr Key will also discuss their progress with Fiji after talks between the three countries raised hopes they may resume some diplomatic ties ahead of Fiji's promised 2014 elections.
Ms Gillard will also have private meetings with Nauru's President Sprent Dabwido and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to discuss her moves to reopen asylum seeker processing centres in those two countries.