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By Moffat Mamu

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, April 4) – Solomon Islands has stamped its loyalty with Taiwan as it opted to stay out of the controversial first ever China-Pacific summit scheduled to start in Nadi, Fiji, tomorrow.

The biggest Pacific Island ally of Taiwan, Solomon Islands, has already said it won’t attend the summit when the request was offered.

An invitation to the Solomon Islands government was made in February by the Chinese government but the offer was subsequently rejected by the caretaker Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza.

"I have received invitation to the conference and the bilateral meeting but rejected the invitation because Solomon Islands has diplomatic ties with Taiwan and not mainland China. Solomon Islands normally attend meetings hosted by Japan, the United States, and France because we have diplomatic ties with these countries but in the case of China we do not have diplomatic relations with her but with Taiwan," Sir Allan said.

Last year, the Taiwan President made a historical visit to the country signifying the close ties between the two countries.

Premier Wen Jiabou’s visit is the first official visit to be paid by a Chinese official in his position to South Pacific Island countries and the first visit to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji over the past 18 years.

More than 200 Chinese businessmen and companies whose interests include fishing, agriculture and tourism are accompanying Premier Wen to Fiji for the China-Pacific Trade Summit in Nadi.

This would be the first time that China would hold a summit of such magnitude with the island countries.

The two-day conference will give Pacific Islands the opportunity to exhibit their products and find potential markets in the Pacific.

Fiji Ambassador to China Jeremaia Waqanisau told PACNEWS that the Pacific Islands should not miss this opportunity.

"The Chinese are not only coming to showcase their products but are inviting Pacific Islands to showcase products they want to sell into China," Mr. Waqanisau said.

"The officials that are coming in from China are coming in with a whole entourage of Chinese business people. And during the trade show, Chinese businessmen will look at these products and if they like it, they will engage in a one on one discussion straight away," he said.

China is becoming concerned with the trade imbalance between China and the Pacific Island nations given that even though the economies of the Pacific Island nations are small.

Six Pacific Islands have diplomatic relations with Taiwan – Solomon Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

They are unlikely to attend the Summit.

Taiwan has objected to the involvement of the Pacific Islands Forum in this Nadi summit between China and its allies in Oceania and applauded those who rejected the offer to attend.

The Islands Business magazine reported that the Taiwanese Trade Mission representative in Suva, Sherman Shi-Nan Kuo, objects to the involvement of the Forum Secretariat.

Mr. Kuo says Taiwan is a donor to the Forum and he has told them that if they are organizing a summit for China, then Taiwan could also ask for the same favor.

This year Taiwan has earmarked US$700,000 for the Forum Secretariat, he said.

It is also continuing with a US$500,000 scholarship scheme for Pacific Islands’ university students.

April 5, 2006

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