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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill meets with Xi Jinping; signs up to China’s Belt and Road initiative

Peter O'Neill meets with Xi Jinping in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as part of a trip that saw the Pacific nation signing on to Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative.

During the meeting, the leaders agreed to promote bilateral relations between the two nations to a new level.

It was also revealed that during the same trip PNG had signed up to China’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative, according to a statement from the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Xi said PNG was an influential Pacific island country, noting that China-PNG relations had made historic progress since their establishment 42-years-ago, especially after a strategic partnership was established in 2014.

“Mutual political trust and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides have reached a new historical level,” Mr Xi said.

“China appreciates Papua New Guinea’s firm adherence to the One-China policy and is willing to work together with Papua New Guinea to strengthen communication, deepen cooperation, expand exchanges and push bilateral relations to a new level.”

Mr Xi stressed that not long ago PNG officially joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is the first Pacific island country that signed a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road construction.

He said both sides should actively expand pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road so as to inject a new power to the sustainable and stable development of the bilateral relationship.

Mr O’Neill said PNG had been committed to deepening the strategic partnership with China, and firmly adhered to the one-China principle.

“Papua New Guinea is committed to deepening its strategic partnership with China, firmly pursuing the One-China policy, highly praising and actively supporting president Xi Jinping’s great ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative,” he said.

He said that he hoped to expand “cooperation with China in the fields of economy and trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure”.

Mr Xi also said China was willing to enhance coordination in multilateral mechanism with PNG and supported the country to host this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting for building an open Asian-Pacific economy.

According to the Lowy Institute, China spent $858.4 million on 27 projects in PNG between 2006 and 2016.

China’s influence can be seen in the funding of Port Moresby’s new $35 million International Convention Centre, the venue for the upcoming APEC summit.

China has also been involved in large-scale road projects, building a six-lane boulevard between the convention centre and the nearby national parliament — worth an estimated $40 million — and an upgrade to the Port Moresby freeway.

Mr O’Neill arrived in China on Wednesday for a week-long visit to strengthen ties with China that will include visits to Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

His visit comes amid continued concern in Australia about the growing influence of China in the Pacific region, with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop telling Fairfax Australia wanted to be the “natural partner of choice” to Pacific nations.

But Peter Hartcher, the political editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, said Australia had “already been caught napping” on investment in the Pacific.

“The Australian Government now finds itself in a catch-up phase,” Mr Hartcher told the ABC’s The World program.

“The reason that countries like Papua New Guinea and earlier Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are interested in Belt and Road … is we haven’t been such great and generous benefactors ourselves over recent decades.”

Mr Hartcher added that it was unlikely Australia could keep up with the size of Beijing’s foreign aid warchest.

“You don’t need a begging bowl when you go to Beijing these days because the Chinese have put out a giant honeypot … a giant treasure chest,” he said.

“They’ve invited more than 100 countries in the world to participate and take some of the treasure, at least as a loan. You don’t need to beg. The Chinese are practically ladling it out.”

SOURCE:http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-22/png-prime-minister-peter-oneill-meets-with-xi-jinping-in-beijing/9897248

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