11 Oct 2002

Kiribati opposition says China satellite deal could be reassessed

11:17 am on 11 October 2002

An opposition candidate in next month's Kiribati election, Ieremia Tabai, says if a new government is chosen it may reassess the set-up of a Chinese satellite base near the country's airport.

Mr Tabai, who was the president until 1991, says the Chinese government fears that more questions may be asked if a new administration is formed.

China says its station on Bikenibeu islet is part of its civilian space program but earlier this year the site was buzzed by US fighter jets.

The US has a key base in the nearby Marshall Islands used to test its missile defence system.

The Kiribati President Teburoro Tito has refused to release details of discussions with Beijing and the details of the base's 15-year lease.