Samoa PM plays down fears over China in Pacific
Funafuti, TUVALU — Pacific island leaders do not share Australia's concerns about China's rising influence in the region, Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi said Thursday.
While Canberra and Washington fear China's long-term ambition is a military base in the Pacific, Malielegaoi said he was more interested in the practical aid Beijing offered.
"The bigger geopolitical issues don't have importance to us as small island countries, whose only interest is to provide a modern living," he told TVNZ at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting being held in Tuvalu.
Australia and other western-aligned nations have launched diplomatic campaigns to limit China's inroads in the region but Malielegaoi said all nations that offered help were welcome.
"Their enemies (Australia and its allies) are not our enemies," he said.
His comments come as Australia finds itself increasingly isolated in the 18-member PIF over its reluctance to take urgent action on climate change.
Leaders from the likes of Tuvalu, Palau and Fiji have accused Australia of not doing enough to deal with an "existential threat" to the region's low-lying island nations.
PIF leaders held a marathon meeting aimed at issuing a communique reflecting member states concerns on the issue ahead of UN climate talks in New York next month.