China's Xi Jinping wraps up Pacific talks with Fiji aid boost

Chinese President Xi Jinping during talks in Auckland on Nov 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping during talks in Auckland on Nov 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SUVA (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping injected a further 70 million yuan (S$14.8 million) of aid money into Fiji as he wrapped up a round of talks in the Pacific nation Sunday aimed at strengthening ties in the region.

In a stopover following the Group of 20 summit in Australia, Xi held talks with Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and seven other island nation leaders who form the nucleus of a 12-nation Pacific voting bloc in the United Nations.

"I hope my visit can open a new chapter in bilateral friendly and cooperative relations," Xi told the leaders of Samoa, Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

The talks also involved signing memoranda of understanding on a range of issues including climate change, with several island nations under threat from rising sea levels.

Fiji's permanent secretary for foreign affairs Amena Yauvoli confirmed the aid grant and told the Fiji Times it was "an additional 70 million yuan to the 80 million that was offered in August. So in total, this is about Fjd$50 million (S$33.1 million) in grant and aid."

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said following his talks with Xi that it was important for the region to stay connected to the Asian powerhouse.

"China is a very important global player in terms of not only trade and investment, but in security and many other related issues and climate change," O'Neill told reporters.

"I think it is important that we engage meaningfully with China on many of those issues."

Bainimarama said Fiji, which in 1975 became the first Pacific island nation to establish diplomatic ties with China, wanted Beijing to be fully engaged in the region.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also visited Fiji after the G20 in an attempt to build ties with the region, blogged on his official website Friday on the importance of the Pacific to India.

He added about his address to the Fijian and Australian parliaments during his trip: "There is no bond that is stronger than a bond between two democracies."