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After criticism from an Australian federal official, Pacific Island countries said they welcome China"s assistance, rebutting the official"s comments.
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia"s minister for international development and the Pacific, recently accused China of constructing "useless buildings" and "white elephant" projects in those countries, according to media reports.
But Sione Vuna Fa"otusia, Tonga"s minister of justice, said China builds infrastructure in the countries to assist their economic development. It"s good for Tonga and China to work as partners, he said.
"It is sad indeed for Australia to start accusing China for helping the poor and needy countries of the Pacific," Fa"otusia said, according to the New Zealand-based Kaniva Tonga news organization.
Tuilaepa Sa"ilele Malielegaoi, prime minister of Samoa, said in an interview with the Savali Newspaper that he was "surprised" by Fierravanti-Wells" comments, which he called "quite insulting to the leaders of the Pacific Island nations".
"We certainly welcome assistance from China," Malielegaoi said, adding that buildings financed by China have provided modern facilities and improved the working environment.
A Chinese company renovated the country"s Faleolo International Airport. The Chinese government also completed 10 primary schools there by 2016, according to Wang Xuefeng, Chinese ambassador to Samoa.
Fierravanti-Wells should be thankful to the Chinese as they have complemented the assistance provided to the Pacific Island countries, Malielegaoi said.
"Australia and New Zealand have not been able to finance all of our needs. That"s where assistance from China has become very, very useful to all of us," he said, adding that all the Chinese-funded projects in Samoa "are based on what we ask for".
In response to the Australian minister"s expression of concern that Pacific Island countries are taking on loans they cannot repay, Malielegaoi said his country is watching very carefully and has "very strong payment capabilities every year".
China has said on several occasions that its assistance to the countries has no political strings attached and has given a vigorous boost to their economic and social development.
"I can tell this official as well as the international community that China will continue to provide such support and aid to the Pacific Island countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said regarding Fierravanti-Wells on Jan 15.
Two bridges built with Chinese aid were opened to traffic in Fiji this month. The projects, built with Chinese assistance at no cost to Fiji, will significantly improve traffic conditions in the Fijian capital of Suva, Lu said.
"International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has called it (Chinese aid) "useless"," the Fiji Sun said in an editorial. "But how "useless" or otherwise this China-aid grant is really depends on what the majority of Fijians think.
"For one, they are relieved and thankful for this development."