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HONIARA, 05 SEPTEMBER 2019 (SOLOMON STAR) — Establishing diplomatic relations with China may lead to a boost in the local economy, Solomon Islands Communication and Aviation minister Peter Shanel Agovaka claims.

Agovaka, who led a controversial ministerial delegation to China recently, appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee (FRC) inquiry Wednesday.

The FRC is inquiring into why Solomon Islands should sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a friend since 1983.

Agovaka told the hearing during his recent visit to China, he met the Chinese Vice Foreign Affairs minister.

“I told the vice foreign minister that Solomon Islands is attracted to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” the minister said.

“I expressed to him that Solomon Islands view the BRI as blue print of a new era,” he added.

“This will be a new era for Solomon Islands and China as well.”

The Belt and Road Initiative is a global strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organisations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.

Agovaka claimed the BRI could be seen as the solution to the complex international and regional infrastructure challenges such as what we have here.

“I believe Solomon Islands as small as we are can still be part of this major strategy propeller by this great initiative by BRI as outlined by the Chinese president,” he added.

He said based on his discussions with his Chinese counterpart, they both agreed on mutual respect.

“China cannot interfere with our domestic issues neither Solomon Islands interfere with China issues.”

FRC chair Peter Kenilorea Jnr. asked Agovaka if the government and the task-force had considered the principles of democracy, rule of law and respect to human rights in their analysis of the issue.

Agovaka admitted this is a hard question to answer.

However, he said this is not about China or Taiwan but about Solomon Islands.

Meanwhile it was revealed by the Task-force Chairman Moffat Fugui that the bi-partisan report is yet to be completed.

He added that some of the concerns raised during the FRC hearing will be incorporated into the final report to be tabled in the Caucus and Cabinet once they are ready.

Earlier, Agovaka acknowledged the country’s relationship with Taiwan.

“For the last 30 years we have been having a good cordial relationship with Taiwan but after 41 years of independence the government has decided it’s time to move on,” he said. Solomon Islands Minister Agovaka: Why we must switch to China.