Fiji turns to Russia, China amid strained regional ties

SUVA (AFP) - Fiji's military ruler said on Sunday he would meet Beijing's leaders in China this month, a week after unveiling an official trip to Russia, as he looks beyond strained regional ties in the South Pacific.

Mr Voreqe Bainimarama has been banned from Australia and New Zealand since seizing control in a 2006 coup.

His announcement that he would hold talks with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping came a week after he said he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next month when he is in Moscow for the Rugby Sevens World Cup.

"I have been invited to visit China late this month to meet with the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, and President Xi Jinping," Mr Bainimarama told the Fiji Sun from France.

The self-appointed prime minister has previously said he wants to ditch traditional ties with regional powerhouses Australia and New Zealand and align his Pacific Island nation with China.

He said the Chinese understood the reforms he has been trying to implement before a return to democratic elections scheduled for next year.

He also chaired a recent meeting of the Group of 77 developing nations and China.

In the continuing stand-off at a regional diplomatic level, Australia last year agreed to restore full diplomatic ties with Fiji, but Fiji has refused to endorse Australia's preferred choice for high commissioner.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.