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Chinese snubbed at Pacific Islands Forum

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Pacific Islands Forum, NAURU — Nauru is at the centre of a diplomatic storm after the Pacific ­Islands Forum host nation, which is aligned to Taiwan, denied ­Chinese observers the right to visit on official passports.

Forum chairman Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi threatened to pull out of the meeting over the refusal, while Fiji is also understood to have piled pressure on Nauru. Samoa and Fiji are major recipients of Chinese aid and soft loans.

Nauru President Baron Waqa tried to smooth over the dispute yesterday, saying there had been a “misunderstanding” and the ­Chinese delegation had now be granted visas.

Mr Waqa said the dispute had been resolved, although he refused to say whether Nauru had stood its ground and forced the Chinese delegates to travel on their personal passports.

Nauru is one of several smaller Pacific states that recognise ­Taiwan, while China maintains close diplomatic relations with larger Pacific nations including Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

China has provided Fiji with about $US360 million in aid and loans over a decade, and Samoa about $US230m.

Indebtedness to China is an emerging issue for Australia, which wants to maintain its status as the “natural partner” in the ­region.

Read more at The Australian