Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

No need for concern about China's role in Pacific - Minister

Chinese vice foreign minister Cui Tianki, in New Zealand for the Pacific Islands Forum, speaks to the Herald at Sky City Grand Hotel. Photo / Natalie Slade
Chinese vice foreign minister Cui Tianki, in New Zealand for the Pacific Islands Forum, speaks to the Herald at Sky City Grand Hotel. Photo / Natalie Slade

China's vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai says there is no reason for the United States to have any concerns about China's role in the Pacific.

"We are just part of it," he told the Herald. "The Pacific is important to us and we are important to the Pacific."

"I don't know why anybody should have any reservation about China's role in the Pacific," when asked about US concerns.

Mr Cui made his comments to a small group of reporters after meeting leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland during the post-forum dialogue talks.

He said that he and United States Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell were having a breakfast meeting tomorrow morning in Auckland.

The pair held inaugural talks in Hawaii in June to discuss co-operation in the Pacific and Mr Cui said they would meet again in China this year to talk about further co-operation.

Mr Cui's delegation numbers eight. Commenting on the fact that the United States turned up to the forum with 50, Mr Cui joked that he now "understands better why they have to talk about this budget deficit."

"Where ever the United States goes, they always want to have a strong presence."

"We understand that. As long as they come to join the efforts of the rest of us to help the Pacific Island countries they are certainly welcome."

Mr Cui said he hoped the Pacific was not something that separated the United States and China.

"Rather we would hope that the Pacific Ocean would be kind of a link that would bring us together not only for the bilateral relationship but also for joint efforts to help regional countries like the island countries to promote regional integration processes and maintaining regional peace and stability."

Mr Cui said that China was "in serious discussion" with New Zealand about undertaking some joint projects in the region.

He mentioned a company he saw at The Cloud on Queen's wharf that was developing portable solar energy which could be very practical for island countries.

"Maybe we could do something together in this regard."

Asked about the persistent rumours that China could establish a base in Fiji, Mr Cui was insistent they were not.

"We have no military bases anywhere in the world and we have no plan of setting up such a base in the foreseeable future."

"Our defence policy is a defensive one."

He had been in Fiji before arriving in Auckland and China had just built something new there - an embassy, not a military base."

He said he shared the view that what happened in Fiji - which is under military leadership - had to be worked out by the people of Fiji.

"The current Government is Fiji is pre-occupied with economic and social development. They spent all their time talking to me about economic co-operation."

He said China had a long standing tradition of following a policy of ''non-interference in other countries' internal affairs and we will do the same on Fiji."

China has declined to join the group of aid donors in the Pacific that co-ordinates efforts, Prime Minister John Key said at the post forum dialogue press conference.

Mr Cui told reporters there was a difference between the aid that China as a developing nation gave out of friendship and that of developed countries such as New Zealand, and Australia under commitments.

The developed countries' aid was made under obligations for Overseas Development Assistance of 0.7 per cent set by the United Nations.

He said that China however was giving in the general framework of "south-south" co-operation.

"We are doing it on a voluntary basis because we are friends of the islands countries. This is of a very different nature. "

China's assistance was "an expression of friendship - a mutual assistance but for the
developed countries they have the commitment to fulfil."

"So there is a very clear difference. That's why we do not join this foreign compact. We don't want to be part of the so-called donor community because we are not a donor."

"We are just helping other developing countries in the spirit of solidarity."

This is Mr Cui's first visit to New Zealand.

"I'm so impressed," he said.

He will be attending the opening game of the Rugby World Cup tonight along with other post forum dialogue partners and members.

- NZ Herald

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