November 13, 2014 / 5:28 AM / 3 years ago

China to lift aid to Pacific, sees cooperation with Taiwan allies

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will offer a broad aid package to Pacific island nations at a summit in Fiji next week, a foreign ministry official said on Thursday, adding that there was also room to work with six island states not invited because of ties to Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The tiny states of the Pacific Ocean have been a source of diplomatic intrigue between China and Taiwan for decades, with each accusing the other of using “dollar diplomacy” to win recognition.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to have diplomatic relations of its own, and the number of states with ties to Taipei has dwindled to just 22, six of which are in the Pacific.

Xi will host the meeting of its allies on Fiji. The leaders of Fiji, Micronesia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue will attend, Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told a news briefing.

Xi, who visits the region after trips to Australia and New Zealand, will give an “important policy speech” at the meeting, and announce “important steps” to help development, Zheng said.

“During the visit, China will sign a series of cooperative documents with the leaders, as well as business agreements. They will be in the areas of financing, education, training, infrastructure and such other broad areas,” Zheng said, without elaborating.

While Taiwan’s friends in the region - Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu - have not been invited, this does not mean that China ignores then, he added.

“China has all along had friendly interactions with the peoples of all the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and exchanges and cooperation continue to increase,” Zheng said.

He also held out the chance of more benefits for countries of the region once they recognize China, rather than Taiwan.

“Under the framework of one China, relations in the future will develop even better. There is a lot of space for cooperation.”

A spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said that they will be paying close attention to Xi’s visit.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949.

However, China and Taiwan have engaged in an unofficial diplomatic truce since signing a series of landmark trade and economic pacts in 2008, as China tries to convince Taiwan of its friendly intentions after years of hostility.

Additional reporting by JR Wu in TAIPEI; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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