China to loan Pacific island nations $1.24 billion to support construction projects

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will provide a concessionary loan of up to US$1 billion (S$1.24 billion) to Pacific island nations, a part of the world where Beijing and Taiwan compete for influence, to support construction projects, state media on Friday cited Vice-Premier Wang Yang as saying,

Mr Wang made the announcement at a forum with Pacific island nations in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It provided no other details on the loan.

China will also build medical facilities in the region and send medical teams as well as invest in green energy projects, Xinhua cited Mr Wang as saying.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Micronesia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue and Fiji, the news agency added.

The Pacific has traditionally been a site of competition for diplomatic recognition between China and Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own.

In the region, Taiwan maintains formal ties with Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Taiwan has also supported development projects and provided loans.

However, China and Taiwan have maintained an unofficial diplomatic truce and not tried to court each other's allies in the developing world since they signed a series of landmark trade and economic deals in 2008, ushering in improved ties.

Just 23 countries recognise Taiwan, almost all impoverished countries in Central and South America, Africa and the Pacific.

Those that recognise Taiwan range in size from the Vatican to Paraguay.

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