‘Insolent’ China says Nauru should apologise for slight on envoy

Nauru and Tuvalu are two of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which is a major source of tension with China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province, to be taken back by force if necessary.

During a media conference that followed the leaders’ meeting at the forum late on Wednesday, Nauru’s president was asked whether he would seek a formal apology from China over its envoy’s behaviour.

“We will go further than that, I tell you we won’t just seek an apology, we will actually get the forum to do it … as well as our own and we will even take it up to the UN,” Waqa said.

“Never mind they are big, they are our partners, they should not disrespect us.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Nauru was to blame for the drama.

“I think the Nauru President you’re taking about is probably very happy about becoming a focus of public opinion,” she told a daily news briefing.

“What Nauru said is diametrically the opposite of the facts. It has totally confused right and wrong and they have made bogus accusations,” Hua added.

“It’s actually the Nauru side who should reflect and apologise.”

Hua implied Taiwan was behind the fracas.

“I wish to admonish Nauru and the director behind this performance that in the face of the broad historical trend of the ‘one China’ principle, they should immediately stop creating a scene for no reason and again invite humiliation.”

Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that the dispute was connected to Nauru’s recognition of Taiwan.

“Taiwan should not believe there is still an opportunity for its “diplomacy” just because of Nauru’s actions. It’s absurd that Taiwan’s future can be decided by a remote Pacific island country,” the paper said on Thursday.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee told Reuters in a written statement that it was “basic etiquette” to respect the arrangement made by a host country in international conferences.

The ministry also thanked the support from Nauru, he said.

Waqa said that he had not allowed China to speak as protocol dictated that he allow prime ministers and ministers to speak before diplomats.

“I have to be strong here because no one is to come and dictate things for us,” Waqa said. “It’s about the way they treated us, they’re not our friends. They just use us for their own purpose, for their own will.”

The forum is set to end on Thursday.

China has become one of the dominant economic players in the Pacific, spending billions of dollars in trade, investment, aid and tourism in a region that staunch US ally Australia has long regarded as its “back yard”.

Chinese lending to the region has surged from nearly zero to $US1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) over the last decade, stoking concern that tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt.

Tuvalu is set to host the Pacific Island Forum in 2019 and Waqa said some states had suggested changing the rules around which forum events countries with ‘dialogue partner’ status, including China, would be allowed to speak.

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