China, Pacific island countries announce strategic partnership
NADI, Fiji - China and eight Pacific island countries agreed in Nadi on Saturday to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development.
The agreement was announced at a meeting between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and the leaders of the eight countries, namely Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Micronesia President Emanuel Mori, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O' Neill, Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman, The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, Tonga Prime Minister Siale'ataonga Tu'ivakano and Niue Prime Minister Toke Talagi.
All the eight island countries have established diplomatic ties with China since the 1970s.
In a keynote speech delivered at the meeting, Xi expounded China's policy and measures to enhance relations with the island countries in a new era, stressing that China is a sincere friend and partner of those countries.
The Chinese people and the people of the island countries have a "natural sense of amity" toward each other and enjoy a "long history of friendship" although they are geographically far apart, Xi said.
Hailing the expanding common interests of China and the island countries, Xi said their friendly cooperation has entered a fast-track of development.
"China will attach more not less importance to its relations with the island countries and will make more input," he said.
Xi said China respects the island countries' own choices of social systems and development paths in accordance with their national conditions, and support the countries' efforts to manage and decide on regional affairs in their own way as well as to participate in international affairs to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.
He urged China and the island countries to increase high-level interactions, saying that his country welcomes leaders of the countries to visit China and will work with them on top-level design for their relations.
"(We) stand ready to expand government-to-government, legislature-to-legislature and party-to-party interactions with the island countries, and will continue to advance the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum and other regular dialogues," said the Chinese president.
Referring to his proposal on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Xi said China sincerely hopes to share experience and achievement of development with the island countries and welcomes them to take a ride on the Chinese "express train" of development.
China is willing to deepen cooperation with the island countries in trade, agriculture and fishery, marine industry, energy and resources, infrastructure construction and other sectors, said Xi, adding that China will offer zero-tariff preference for 97 percent of tax items imported from the least developed countries.
China will continue to provide support for the island countries' major projects, infrastructure construction and projects involving people's livelihoods, Xi said.
On people-to-people exchanges, the Chinese president pledged to provide the island countries with 2,000 scholarships and 5,000 slots for various studies and trainings in the next five years.
China will send more medical teams to the island countries and encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the countries, he added.
In the meantime, Xi said China stands ready to enhance communication with the island countries on global governance, poverty elimination, disaster reduction, food security, energy security, humanitarian aid and climate change to safeguard the common interests of all developing countries, Xi said.
Xi arrived in Nadi on Friday for a state visit to Fiji after his trips to Australia and New Zealand.
The leaders of the island countries said they all regard China as a sincere friend and partner as the Chinese side always respects and supports the island countries.
They said China's policy and measures toward the islands countries in the new era meet the actual needs of the countries and will help the countries in their push for sustainable development.
China's proposals on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank generate important opportunities for the island countries, they noted.
The leaders pledged that their countries will boost exchanges and cooperation, and cement friendship with China and will join hands with China to strive for their dreams.