By ANDREW FANASIA
CHINA’S push to get Solomon Islands severe its diplomatic ties with Taiwan hits another button this week with a big ministerial delegation visiting the communist nation.
Six government ministers, two backbenchers and one senior official will be in China from August 15 to 19 on a Chinese government funded trip.
The Solomon Star understands this is the first in history for a government delegation of this size to travel to China.
This trip comes at the back of a bi-partisan taskforce Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare recently appointed to look into the option of changing the country’s diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China.
The taskforce, headed by pro-China politician and Central Honiara MP Moffat Fugui, is now in China after visiting Papua New Guinea last week.
While both delegations will be in China at the same time, the Office of the Prime Minister said their roles will be different.
“The ministerial group differs from the bipartisan taskforce, which will conduct concurrent but separate consultations during the visit of both delegations,” a government statement issued last night said.
Taiwan, which Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations with since 1983, declined to comment on the trip yesterday.
A spokesman from the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara said they have no comment to make.
The Prime Minister’s office said the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara has been informed of the trip, and that the trip will not undermine the current diplomatic status the two countries enjoy.
“In fact, Taiwan has been well informed of this proposed visit as this is also in line with the DCGA policy of being a friend to all and enemy to none which was highlighted in the DCGA 100 days in office.
“So there is nothing sinister about the visit as everything is done in total transparency,” the government statement issued last night said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman from the Prime Minister’s office has rejected social media claims that this was a “secret trip”.
“It’s not a secret trip. A combined meeting of Cabinet and Caucus approved the trip,” the spokesman said.
The delegation, to be led by Aviation and Communication minister Peter Shanel, will be in China from August 15 to 19, purportedly for “high level” discussions.
Those in the trip are:
1. Peter Shanel –Head of delegation
2. Harry Kuma – Finance and Treasury minister
3. Manasseh Maelanga – Infrastructure and Development minister
4. Dudley Kopu – Rural Development minister
5. Anthony Veke – Provincial Government minister
6. Clezy Rore – Trade and Commerce minister
7. Jackson Filaua – Deputy Chairman of Caucus
8. Commins Mewa – Parliamentary Standing Committee chairman
9. Ronald Fugui – PM’s Private Secretary
Chinese government agency, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), is facilitating the trip.
Its president, Li Xiaolin, said in the invitation letter:
“On behalf of the Chinese People’s Association for Leadership with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), I would like to invite Solomon Islands Government delegates to visit Beijing, China from 15th to 19th August 2019.
“Landing cost for your delegation will be borne by the CPAFFC.”
Xiaolin further states that the delegation will be met by related Chinese institutions and enterprises, adding sightseeing in Beijing will also be arranged.
“We believe the visit will surely strengthen friendship between China and Solomon Islands.
“I am looking forward to welcome the delegation soon in China.”