CANBERRA, 22 JANUARY 2018 (XINHUA) — Australia’s foreign minister has reportedly stepped in to ease tensions in the Pacific after an Australian senator said that China was lending money to smaller countries in the Pacific on unfavorable terms.
According to The Australian newspaper on Saturday, Julie Bishop has made contact with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi to discuss comments made by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who accused China of providing loans to Pacific nations on unfavorable terms and constructing “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” in the region.
The senator’s comments were condemned by politicians from Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands with Tuilaepa labelling them as “harmful and insulting to the leaders of the Pacific.”
Bishop has reportedly made contact with political leaders in the Pacific to clarify the comments.
The Samoan leader said that Bishop apologised to him, but The Australian said that no formal apology was issued.
Mark Brown, the Cook Islands’ Finance Minister, described the events as “unfortunate” and said that his country had a firm policy of approving aid projects which met its needs.
Sione Vuna Fa’otusia, Tonga’s Justice Minister, said Fierravanti-Wells’ attack on Pacific nations was “sad” and praised China for providing aid to the pacific countries.
“It is sad indeed for Australia to start accusing China for helping the poor and needy countries of the Pacific,” he told Kaniva News.
“What China does by building infrastructure is to assist in the economic development of the Pacific countries. China is a huge country with a huge economy. It cannot be measured against Australia in any way whatsoever. It is good for Tonga to work alongside with China as our partner….PACNEWS [/restrict]