Fiji PM says China may help develop ports
November 22, 2023 09:39 AM
China may help Fiji develop its ports and shipyards, the Pacific island country's prime minister said Wednesday, raising the prospect of stronger ties with Beijing in a key area of its economy.
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who has been cautious about China's expanding security footprint in the Pacific, praised Beijing's record of aid to Fiji in fighting Covid-19, developing agriculture and revamping infrastructure.
The modernisation of Fiji's port facilities and shipyards is a "key focus" for sustainable economic development, Rabuka told parliament after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
"I anticipate potential collaboration with China in that endeavour," the Fijian leader said, citing the Asian giant's "globally competitive shipbuilding" capacity.
Fiji and other Pacific nations have sought to strike a delicate balance as China competes for influence in the region with the United States and its allies.
Xi pledged to help Fiji safeguard its "security and sovereignty" and to cooperate on infrastructure when he met with Rabuka on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic summit in San Francisco, China's foreign ministry said last week.
During a visit to Australia last month, Rabuka said he preferred dealing with democratic "traditional friends" when asked about China's security role in the South Pacific.
Rabuka has also advocated the creation of a "zone of peace" in the region.
China notably alarmed Western countries when it signed a secretive defence pact with Solomon Islands last year, sparking fears it could deploy military forces there.