8 Jun 2006

Concern expressed over Marshall Islands parliamentary visit to China

7:49 pm on 8 June 2006

A Marshall Islands parliamentary group's planned visit to China

next week is sparking controversy and opposition in a nation that is diplomatically aligned with Taiwan.

The Majuro Chamber of Commerce has issued a unanimous condemnation of this decision.

In a letter to parliament Speaker Litokwa Tomeing, Chamber president Jack Niedenthal says they feel that without the express consent of the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Cabinet, the visit would sully the reputation of the Marshallese people.

He also said the visit would have adverse economic effects that the private sector can ill-afford at this time.

The Marshall Islands has maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan since 1998, and receives in excess of $10 million US dollars annually from Taipei in development aid.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios says he is extremely concerned by the visit, because it has the appearance of a government-to-government visit.

But he says the government has no say in a private visit to China.