China Visa Row Sparks Controversy At PIF Summit

04 September 2018

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit began on a dramatic note as China, attending the event as a “dialogue partner”, threatened to pull-out amid a visa row with host nation Nauru.

The meeting is focusing on extracting more value from tuna resources for Pacific countries but the China issue took center stage as the event kicked-off. The diplomatic spat was triggered after Nauru refused to stamp entry visas on diplomatic passports of the visiting Chinese delegates and insisted on processing their personal passports. Nauru’s stance is based on the fact that the island nation has no diplomatic relations with the mainland and like other PNA countries recognizes Taiwan, which apparently has also funded most of the infrastructure currently being utilized at the summit.

Nauru’s decision though did not go down well with Samoa, one of the members of the PIF, with the country’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi threatening to withdraw from the meeting. In a letter to the Nauru President, which was accessed by AFP, the Samoan Prime Minister wrote that the unilateral action in denying diplomatic visa sets a dangerous precedent. The letter went on to add that the decision “questions the integrity, credibility and foundation of our organization”.

It must be noted that none of the other PIF countries, which includes Australia and New Zealand and all PNA countries, issued any statement regarding dropping out from the summit. In fact, in the past, Australia and New Zealand have even shown concerns about China’s efforts to grow its influence in the region.

The controversy was doused following a compromise under which the Chinese delegation members were provided with stamps on their visa acceptance letters instead. However, this was not before it once again brought to center stage the geopolitical tug-of-war between China and Taiwan in the Pacific, something Atuna had recently reported.

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