China

Tonga signs on to China energy agreement

The Belt and Road Energy Partnership was launched at a meeting in Beijing last week attended by several Pacific heads of state.

The partnership promotes cooperation between countries on energy development with a focus on addressing climate change and energy security.

According to a release from Tonga's government, it is the only Pacific nation to join the energy partnership.

Tonga's energy minister, Poasi Tei, one of six ministers invited to the ceremony last Thursday, said a wind power station in Tongatapu donated by China last year was part of the partnership.

China turtle death: One of last four known Yangtze giant softshells dies

The female turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) died in Suzhou zoo in southern China.

Experts had tried to artificially inseminate the creature, which was over 90 years old, for a fifth time shortly before she died.

The species has suffered from hunting, overfishing and the destruction of its habitat.

One male, estimated to be more than 100 years old, is left in the Chinese zoo while two other turtles live in the wild in Vietnam. The elusive nature of the turtle means it has been difficult to identify the gender of the pair.

Dust devil kills two children and injures 20 people in China

A small whirlwind known as a dust devil tore the inflatable from the ground at a fairground in Yucheng county.

One parent reportedly told local media that she saw children fall from a height of about 20 metres (66ft).

A county government official told the South China Morning Post it was unclear whether "human factors" played a role.

Local authorities said 18 other children and two adults were taken to hospital. One child was in a serious condition while the rest were being treated for minor injuries.

China lobbying Pacific nations over Taiwan issue

The Pacific is Taiwan's last bastion of diplomatic support, with six nations in the region - Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu and Palau - recognizing Taipei rather than Beijing.

Taiwan donates large amounts of aid to these countries, and works hard to cultivate relationships with their political leaders.

But China is intent on prising off Taiwan's remaining allies around the globe.

The ABC reports Pacific officials lobbied by China asked not to be identified because they did not want to damage diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Tonga wants to grow China exports under Belt and Road

An agreement was signed at the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea, where China also agreed to defer Tonga's loan repayments for five years.

China also signed off on a $US14 million aid grant for a yet to be finalised project.

Lopeti Senituli, a political adviser to Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, says Tonga will benefit from Belt and Road.

"We are already exporting squash, we are also exporting our sea cucumber, but we are also hoping to expand that to other agricultural and marine resources to China," said Lopeti Senituli.

Tonga and Vanuatu join China's Belt and Road

The announcements came on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea last week.

Tonga's memorandum of understanding on Belt and Road was followed by a reprieve of the country's debt payments owed to China.

Lopeti Senituli, a political adviser to Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, told Reuters the loan payments had been deferred for five years.

Meanwhile, the Vanuatu Daily Post reports Vanuatu signed seven different MoUs with China earlier this month, including a Belt and Road agreement.

ANG defers Shanghai flights

In a statement, the airline said: “Air Niugini is committed to ensuring the highest quality, on time service to all passengers and will continuously review its business to improve efficiencies.

“Our partners and the airline have invested heavily in setting up operations to achieve our goal of opening the Chinese market to Papua New Guinea. It is our desire to complete this venture at the earliest possible opportunity. 

West accused of trying to sow discord over Chinese aid

Yu Lei of the Beijing Foreign Studies University told the Global Times South Pacific nations were "bewitched" by Western countries including Australia and the US, who sought to gain political leverage in the region.

Western countries were trying to sow discord between China and South Pacific nations by inciting them to come up with the idea of writing off loans, the academic said.

Tonga's prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva has suggested Pacific countries push for China to forgive their debts, although he has since backtracked on the idea.

NZ advises Pacific countries to ask China for debt forgiveness

The Samoa Observer reports that Winston Peters made the suggestion during an exclusive interview at the recent Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in Samoa.

Mr Peters said the level of debts that Pacific Island nations owed to the Chinese government should be addressed at the leadership level.

Last week, Tonga Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva cautioned Pacific Island nations to "slow down" asking China for loans.

He referred to the experiences of his own country, which owes the Chinese government $US160 million.

Tonga's PM wants regional push for China to forgive debts

'Akilisi Pohiva says Tonga is two years overdue on Chinese loan payments, but will this year pay $US14 million towards its outstanding $US160 million debt.

He told the Samoa Observer that if Pacific Islands don't pay their debts to China's government, it will seize their assets as collateral.

He says the only option for Tonga and other indebted nations is to ask China to forgive the debts.

Mr Pohiva has repeatedly asked China's government to forgive Tonga's debt, which is a substantial portion of the kingdom's GDP, or convert the loans to grants.