10 Mar 2005

China seeking to establish regional airline in South Pacific

9:56 am on 10 March 2005

China is reported to be interested in putting up 60 million US dollars to set up a regional airline for the South Pacific.

Fiji TV reports that China has already raised the issue with the Fiji government but has not yet approached other regional countries.

The report says the proposal has been interpreted as a move by China to increase its influence in the South Pacific.

The chief executive of Fiji's civil aviation ministry, Vuetasau Buatoka, says any feasibility study of the proposal would have to include Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa.

Mr Buatoka says he does not think Fiji would want to sell its controlling shares in national airline, Air Pacific, to the Chinese government to kick-start the new Chinese airline.

He says South Pacific states must tread carefully if they don't want to sell their sovereignty in the process.