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Vanuatu PM assaults Chinese ambassador
Updated: 2004-12-06 12:44

China's ambassador to Vanuatu said Monday he won't lodge a formal protest after being pushed on the shoulder by the South Pacific island nation's fist-waving prime minister.

Ambassador Bao Shusheng said the incident occurred as a parliamentary session ended in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, last Wednesday.

Bao said he stepped forward to ask Prime Minister Serge Vohor why he had ordered the Taiwanese flag flown outside a city hotel -- a move that offended the ambassador because Taiwan is an integral part of China.

"But before I said any word ... he bunched his fist and showed me his fist, then pushed my right shoulder" with it, Bao told The Associated Press by telephone.

"Before I realized what had happened, he turned and rushed into his car and he left the scene, and I was stopped by his bodyguards," the ambassador said.

Vohor's two bodyguards stopped the ambassador, Bao added, but didn't touch him as Vohor left in the vehicle. He didn't regard the "push" by Vohor as "an attack."

"I think this is an insult as I'm representing the People's Republic of China as the ambassador and he is the prime minister. This should not be the attitude of a prime minister to an ambassador," he added.

"I think this is a personal act," he said, adding that no diplomatic protest would be lodged.

Vohor could not be immediately contacted for comment.

The incident comes as Vohor faces a motion of no confidence in the nation's Parliament, a vote delayed by a legal action challenging the motion's status under the nation's Constitution.

He is under pressure after 16 lawmakers, including most of his Cabinet, broke ranks and crossed the floor to join the opposition, leaving the premier with just 15 legislators supporting him in the 52-member house.

Vohor's troubles began November 3 when he signed a formal diplomatic recognition agreement with Taiwan in Taipei during a secret visit seeking funds for his impoverished nation.

Since then his Cabinet has twice rejected the deal, saying it would jeopardize links with China. 

On November 24, Australia threatened to slash aid to Vanuatu if its government did not crack down on corruption. But it insisted the issue was not related to the Taiwan recognition row.

Vanuatu, a nation of 200,000 people, lies 2,250 kilometers northeast of Sydney, Australia.

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