20 May 2005

Fiji government seeks to mend relations with China

10:13 am on 20 May 2005

Fiji is trying to mend relations with China after two official level contacts with Taiwan which angered authorities in Beijing.

Two weeks ago Fiji allowed the Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-bian, to make an overnight stop at Nadi during which he met with the vice president, Ratu Jone Madraiwiwi, the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs and the president of the Senate.

This week Fiji's health minister, Solomone Naivalu, backed Taiwan's application to be given observer status at the World Health Assembly now under way in Geneva.

Radio Fiji reports that Fiji's one-China policy forbids it from supporting Taiwan at any international forum.

It quotes the foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, as saying he will raise the issue with Mr Naivalu who had been briefed on the position to take in Geneva before he left.

The diplomatic blunder comes just as China's fourth highest ranking official arrives in Fiji tomorrow for a three-day visit.

Mr Tavola says his ministry is already into damage control mode.