3 May 2006

Solomons PM candidates differ on China policy

7:54 pm on 3 May 2006

The Solomon Islands caretaker government candidate for the prime ministership, Fred Fono, says if elected tomorrow he will maintain ties with Taiwan.

Mr Fono made the comment after the opposition's candidate for the prime ministership, Manasseh Sogavare, said that he will shift diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China - a move that contradicts his party's pre-election policy.

Mr Fono says getting Taiwan off Melanesia is absurd, adding that there is no substitution for Taiwan when it comes to rural development in Solomon Islands.

He says a switch to China would have immense consequences for the region and Solomon Islands in particular.

He said swapping Taiwan for China will be a strategic misjudgment, that will give too much room for China to move in a region that is at times considered both an Australian patch and an American lake.