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ALOFI, Niue (September 28, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Niue is pursuing plans to establish diplomatic relations with China.

But the island must first clear the move with New Zealand, which is responsible for Niue’s defense and foreign affairs.

Premier Sani Lakatani has just returned from a visit to Beijing. He said recognition will help establish Niue as a more independent country.

"It’s an important step," Lakatani said, adding that he doesn’t think it will cause anything detrimental as long as New Zealand agreed on the way Niue handles its foreign affairs. He said "it’s about time" Niue receives "international status" recognition.

Lakatani said Niue will eventually open a diplomatic office in Beijing while China will set up an office in Alofi.

"China’s government and business people will work together to develop some of the things in Niue that we discussed," he said.

Lakatani said he plans to return to China for a state visit in the coming months.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phill Goff said Niue is a self-governing state and has the legal capacity to enter into diplomatic relations with third countries. But he added that Niue is expected to consult with New Zealand before entering into such arrangements.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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