Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Nauru and China demand apologies over forum spat

NOT BACKING DOWN:Nauruan President Baron Waqa said that his side would not only seek an apology, but would get the forum to do it, or seek UN intervention

Reuters, WELLINGTON and SYDNEY

The tiny Micronesian state of Nauru is demanding a formal apology after a dispute with China’s representative at this week’s Pacific Islands Forum brought to the surface tensions with Beijing over its support for Taiwan.

However, China said it was Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, that should say sorry.

Nauru, an island nation of about 12,000, hosted leaders of 18 Pacific nations, plus delegations from non-member countries including the US and China, for the forum.

The spat occurred when Nauruan President Baron Waqa refused to give way when the head of the Chinese delegation, diplomat Du Qiwen (杜起文), sought to be allowed to address the forum before the prime minister of Tuvalu on Tuesday.

Waqa described China’s envoy as “very insolent” and a “bully” for speaking out of turn.

Nauru and Tuvalu are two of six Pacific Island nations to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

During a media conference that followed the leaders’ meeting at the forum late on Wednesday, Waqa was asked whether he would seek a formal apology from China over its envoy’s behavior.

“We will go further than that, I tell you we won’t just seek an apology, we will actually get the forum to do it ... as well as our own and we will even take it up to the UN,” Waqa said. “Never mind they are big, they are our partners, they should not disrespect us.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that Nauru should apologize for its behavior.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) made the comment at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

The Global Times said in an editorial that the dispute was connected to Nauru’s recognition of Taiwan.

“Taiwan should not believe there is still an opportunity for its diplomacy” just because of Nauru’s actions. It’s absurd that Taiwan’s future can be decided by a remote Pacific Island country,” the newspaper said.

Waqa said that he had not allowed China to speak, as protocol dictated that he allow prime ministers and ministers to speak before diplomats.

“I have to be strong here, because no one is to come and dictate things for us,” Waqa said. “It’s about the way they treated us, they’re not our friends. They just use us for their own purpose, for their own will.”

The forum was to end yesterday.

Tuvalu is to host the Pacific Island Forum next year and Waqa said some states had suggested changing the rules regarding speaking rights at forum events for nations with dialogue partner status, including China.

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Meg Taylor said at the news conference that the rule change and protocols for meetings would be considered in the first quarter of next year.

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