Thu, May 30, 2019 - Page 6 News List

China not seeking ‘sphere of influence’ in Pacific: Xi

Reuters, BEIJING

Beijing is not seeking a sphere of influence in Pacific Ocean island nations, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) told visiting Vanuatuan Prime Minister Charlot Salwai amid fears in Western capitals of China’s growing role in the region.

China has offered to help developing nations, including those in the Pacific, and many see Chinese lending as the best way to develop their economies. Critics say Chinese loans can lead nations into a debt trap, which Beijing denies.

The US and Australia have looked on with particular concern at China’s growing role in the Pacific. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to visit the Solomon Islands next week.

Xi met Salwai in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and said that China upholds the principles of sincerity, real results and good faith to strengthen cooperation with Pacific island nations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“We have no private interests in island countries and do not seek a so-called ‘sphere of influence,’” the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.

China will always be a reliable good friend and partner, Xi said.

“Countries, no matter big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community,” Xi added.

China also opposes “great-power chauvinism,” he said, without offering details.

Xi said Beijing was willing to deepen agricultural technology cooperation with Vanuatu and would continue to encourage Chinese companies to invest there.

Vanuatu and China denied reports last year that Beijing wanted to establish a permanent military presence in the nation.

The Pacific is also an area of competition between China and Taiwan, which maintains formal diplomatic ties with several Pacific island nations.

A top US official on Friday last week said that Pacific Island nations that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan should maintain them in the face of “heavy handed” attempts by China to reduce Taiwan’s overseas contacts.

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