By Ben Blanchard / Reuters, BEIJING
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will offer a broad aid package to Pacific island nations at a summit in Fiji next week, Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang (鄭澤光) said yesterday, adding that there is also room to work with six island states not invited to the meeting because of their ties to Taiwan.
The tiny states of the Pacific have been a source of diplomatic intrigue between Taiwan and China for decades, with each side accusing the other of using "dollar diplomacy" to win sovereign recognition.
China views Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to have diplomatic relations and over time, the number of states with ties to Taipei has dwindled to just 22, six of which are in the Pacific.
Xi will host the meeting of its allies in Fiji. The leaders of Fiji, Micronesia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue will attend, Zheng told a news briefing.
Xi, who is to visits the region after trips to Australia and New Zealand, will give an "important policy speech" at the summit and announce "important steps" to help development, Zheng said.
"During the visit, China will sign a series of cooperative documents with the leaders, as well as business agreements. They will be in the areas of financing, education, training, infrastructure and such other broad areas," the deputy minister said, without elaborating.
While Taiwan's allies in the region — Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu — have not been invited to attend, this does not mean that China will ignore them, he added.
"China has all along had friendly interactions with the peoples of all the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and exchanges and cooperation continue to increase," Zheng said.
He also held out the chance of more benefits for countries of the region once they recognise China, rather than Taiwan.
"Under the framework of one China, relations in the future will develop even better. There is a lot of space for cooperation," Zheng added, referring to the 'one China' policy under which both sides acknowledge that there is only one China, with each having its own interpretation of what that means.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei said that they will be paying close attention to Xi's visit.
Taipei and Beijing have engaged in an unofficial diplomatic truce since signing a series of landmark trade and economic pacts in 2008.
Additional reporting by JR Wu in TAIPEI