Tuesday, June 7, 2016

China using aid to get support for Pacific island claims: report


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China is stepping up efforts to convince small Pacific countries to support its claims in the South China Sea, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.
China has recently become one of the biggest foreign aid donors in the area, which is historically chiefly influenced by Australia, the Herald said.
The small island nation of Vanautu has become the first Pacific nation to publicly support the Chinese position regarding the South China Sea. Samoa, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea are reportedly also being courted.
The alleged Chinese diplomatic campaign comes ahead of an expected ruling in an arbitration case brought by the Philippines in protest of Beijing's construction of artificial islands.  
Beijing claims almost the whole of the South China Sea -- through which a third of the world's oil passes -- while six other Pacific nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines have competing claims, as does Taiwan.
Pentagon officials said in May that China is building artificial islands on top of South China Sea coral reefs at an unprecedented pace.
China's public diplomacy push apparently paid off in Vanautu, whose prime minister last month released a public statement praising Beijing and denouncing Manila's suit.
Beijing also held a press conference in Samoa last night, reportedly a rare occurrence, said the Herald.
Additionally, China's ambassador in Tonga delivered a speech in which he declared that the Chinese "were the first to discover, name and develop" the islands, which he said drew no interest from other nations until natural resources were found.
Rimbink Pato, the foreign minister of Papua New Guinea, reportedly said that China had also made overtures to that country.
Other island nations, including the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Naura all have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, not China.

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