Tonga's prime minister on Friday backed down on calls for
Pacific island nations to collectively lobby China to forgive
their debts, after a source said China had complained about the
Tonga is one of eight island nations in the South Pacific
carrying significant debt to China, and had started building
support to press China to cancel repayments.
Pacific nations were due to discuss the plan at a forum of
regional leaders scheduled to be held in the tiny island nation
of Nauru early next month, Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pōhiva
told Reuters on Thursday.
Pōhiva said in a statement on Friday that "after further
reflection" he believed the forum was not the proper platform to
discuss Chinese debt, and that Pacific nations should each find
their own solutions.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he noted
Pōhiva's statement of "clarification" and his positive appraisal
of ties with China.
"I would like to stress that China and Tonga are strategic
partners of mutual respect and common development," Lu told a
daily news briefing in Beijing.
"China will continue to provide support and assistance to Tonga
and other Pacific island countries in achieving sustainable
development to the best of its ability," he added, without
A recent Reuters analysis of the financial books of South
Pacific island nations showed China's lending programs had gone
from almost zero to more than $1.3 billion outstanding in a
The debt burden of small economies with little earning power has
stoked fears the region could fall into financial distress and
become more susceptible to diplomatic pressure from China.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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