Apec summit: Police posted outside Papua New Guinea FM's office as tensions boil over

General view of security outside the Apec Haus in Papua New Guinea.
General view of security outside the Apec Haus in Papua New Guinea.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

PORT MORESBY (AFP) - Police were called when Chinese officials attempted to “barge” into the office of Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister, it emerged on Sunday (Nov 18), as Apec summit tensions boiled over.

The Chinese delegates “tried to barge in” to Mr Rimbink Pato’s Port Moresby office on Saturday, in an eleventh-hour bid to influence a summit draft communique, but were denied entry, three sources with knowledge of the situation told AFP.

“Police were posted outside the minister’s office after they tried to barge in,” one source privy to summit negotiations told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The diplomatic incident came with tensions already high at a summit of Asian-Pacific leaders that has been overshadowed by a spat between the United States and China.

Mr Pato had refused to meet the delegates, according to a source, who said: “It’s not appropriate for the minister to negotiate solo with the Chinese. The Chinese negotiating officials know this.”

The minister himself sought to downplay the incident, telling AFP: “There wasn’t an issue.”

Asked about the incident, Chinese foreign ministry official Zhang Xiaolong told reporters: “It’s not true. It’s simply not true”.

This is not the first time Chinese officials have been involved in a tense incident at a regional meeting.

At the Pacific Islands Forum in September, Nauru’s president demanded China apologise after its delegation walked out of a meeting when the host refused to let an envoy speak until island leaders had finished.

“They’re not our friends. They just need us for their own purposes,” President Baron Waqa said at the time.

 
 
 

The 21-member Apec on Sunday were unable to agree on a leaders' communique at the closing of the summit as deep divisions between the US and China over trade and investment dominated the meeting.  

It is the first time the grouping was unable to agree on a leaders’ statement in its history. 

A Leaders’ Declaration has been issued after every annual Apec leaders’ meeting since the first in 1993, the group’s website shows.