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Samoa welcomes 'flexible' China in Pacific

WELLINGTON, June 1, 2012 (AFP) - - Samoa's prime minister on Friday said he welcomed China's growing influence in the South Pacific and accused the United States of only paying "lip service" to the region.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi also said Beijing, which has boosted its aid presence in the South Pacific in recent years, was more flexible than traditional donors Australia and New Zealand.

As his country marks 50 years of independence, Malielegaoi said he was glad to see China's increased involvement in the region, even though Canberra and Wellington were uncomfortable with it.

"You (Australia and New Zealand) are expressing your concerns against the Chinese and their influence in the Pacific (but) we brought the Chinese in," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We asked them to come in and fill the gap that Australia and New Zealand cannot do for us. The Chinese have been extremely flexible with the programmes that we bring to them."

Malielegaoi dismissed as "rubbish" suggestions the United States and China were using chequebook diplomacy to gain sway in the South Pacific, saying Washington had long neglected the region.

"You (the US) are only interested in areas where fighting, wars are fought. And I know why, so that it will help your industries, your war machines.

"But you're not interested in the Pacific because it is too peaceful... you've promised help many times for other islands in the Pacific (but) you really have been paying lip service to us."



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