Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Northern Mariana Islands mull lease of land to China

AFP, SAIPAN, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

The cash-strapped Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Western Pacific, has offered to lease land to China as long as it is not used for military purposes.

Northern Marianas Governor Benigno Fitial made the offer -during a US-China Governors Forum in Beijing this week which discussed potential investment and job creation opportunities.

In a statement released yesterday, Fitial said his island-lease offer referred to land on uninhabited islands which “can be leased -except for military purposes.”

The Northern Marianas already leases an island to the US military which uses it for regular live bombing exercises.

A self-governing commonwealth of the US since 1976, the islands are in the grip of a severe budget crisis following the collapse of its garment industry.

In an attempt to combat the cash shortage all government departments are now shut every Friday, with essential exceptions such as the public hospital.

Fitial pitched the Northern Marianas as a prime destination for Chinese tourism, real estate development, agricultural, education and technology investments.

In his statement, Fitial said the Yunnan Province Acting Governor Li Jiheng (李紀恆), planned to make an exploratory visit to the -islands, while Anhui Governor Wang Sanyun (王三運) said he was committed to a partnership.

The Northern Marianas consists of 15 islands, with more than 90 percent of the population of 54,000 living on Saipan. Only four other islands are populated.

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