NATALIE WHITING | Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract
PORT MORESBY - The Chinese foreign minister has hit back at criticism of the nation's aid in the Pacific as China continues to strengthen ties with Papua New Guinea.
China has been accused of using loans and aid projects to bolster influence in the region, but during his first visit to PNG, Wang Yi defended the country's aid program and said those "pointing fingers" should put their efforts into contributing to the region.
He stood alongside PNG counterpart Rimbink Pato as he insisted the country's support came with no strings attached.
"In providing assistance, China fully respects the will of governments and people of the countries in question," Mr Wang said through a translator.
"We never interfere in other countries' domestic affairs and our assistance never comes with political conditions."
However, he did thank PNG for its "strong adherence" to the One China policy.
Australia's defence and diplomatic community have privately expressed unease about China's growing influence in PNG, where the Chinese Government is investing billions in infrastructure and business development.
"China is committed to friendship and common interests and we put the greater good before our own interests," he said.
"To some people, I would say this: rather than pointing fingers at other's contributions it is better to take the efforts to do more things that will benefit the Pacific island states."
PNG's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato also defended the countries' relationship.
"There is no threat to our sovereignty, we are a sovereign nation and so is every other nation of the Pacific," he said.
Mr Wang's visit to PNG is the latest in a series of events that illustrate the growing relationship between the two countries.
His first visit comes ahead of President Xi Jinping's first visit in a fortnight's time — two days before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit - for his own state visit.
The Chinese foreign minister said the two countries were committed to working together and taking bilateral relations "to a new height" and said President Xi would be announcing new projects and assistance measures during his trip this month.
"There will be nothing that will stand in the way of our partnership," Mr Pato said.
"We may have our own traditional alliances, but the way we are moving forward, I can see that there will be nothing that will be an impediment to the alliances that we have in terms of us moving together as partners."