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China eyes Pacific summit as NZ warns of power vacuum

AFP  |  Wellington 

is planning a summit of leaders in November, has revealed, as warned today was attempting to fill a "vacuum" in the long-neglected region.

wants to hold the meeting ahead of the (APEC) forum in from November 12-18.

"(I) invite you to attend a leaders' meeting with the of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping, during his state visit to in the days before the APEC Leaders' Meeting," PNG Peter O'Neill said in an address to the parliament in Suva yesterday.

O'Neill did not detail the meeting's agenda but the fact that Xi is seeking a sit-down with the region's small island nations will draw attention in Canberra, and beyond.

and have long regarded as their backyard but has become increasingly assertive in the region over the past decade.

Australia's think-tank estimates provided USD 1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific countries between 2006-16.

The region is also home to a cluster of Taiwan's few remaining diplomatic allies after Chinese efforts in recent years have whittled down the number of countries that continue to recognise the self-ruled island.

After years of inaction, both and significantly boosted aid spending in the region this year in a bid to win back hearts and minds among the island nations.

They have also announced plans to upgrade their military capabilities, with investing in surveillance drones and buying P-8 planes.

New Zealand's said geo-political tensions were rising in the Pacific.

"The Japanese recognise it, the French recognise it, the European Union, Australia, most of recognise it," he told yesterday.

"It's with great clarity you can see we live in a much more highly stressed area of geo-political competition because we have left, some of us, a vacuum there which others would fill."

New Zealand released a defence policy paper last week that addressed the perceived threat from China in unusually blunt language.

It said was working to increase its influence in the Pacific and noted:


"China holds views on human rights and freedom of information that stand in contrast to those that prevail in New Zealand." Peters acknowledged that Chinese diplomats had raised concerns about the country's portrayal in the paper but said it reflected reality.

"We don't do our population any service by gilding the lily and pulling our verbal punches, so to speak," he said. "We should tell the people exactly what's happening.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, July 10 2018. 08:25 IST
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