China and Kiribati on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing, months after the two countries restored diplomatic relations.
China is willing to integrate the BRI with Kiribati's 20-Year Vision development plan and expand pragmatic cooperation, President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with his Kiribati counterpart Taneti Maamau.
China encourages more Chinese companies to invest in Kiribati, Xi said.
Beijing has signed MOUs with all the 10 Pacific island countries that have diplomatic relations with China.
The two countries should strengthen political mutual trust, Xi told Maamau. China always treats all countries – both big and small – as equals, and China supports Kiribati in choosing a development path that suits its national conditions, Xi stressed.
China recognizes efforts by Maamau's government to promote its economic growth and improve people's livelihood, and Beijing is willing to provide assistance, Xi added.
Maamau thanked China for its support and highlighted the achievements in the bilateral cooperation in the past few months. He said Kiribati is willing to expand cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, tourism, fishery, education and infrastructure.
Earlier, Premier Li Keqiang also held talks with Maamau. Li said China hopes to expand mutually-beneficial cooperation and jointly push forward the positive and steady development of bilateral ties.
China will support its companies to invest and operate in Kiribati based on market and commercial principles, Li stressed.
'The right side of history'
China and the Pacific island country restored diplomatic relations in September 2019. The two countries initially built ties in 1980.
On September 27, 2019, the two countries signed a communique restoring diplomatic relations at the Chinese mission to the United Nations in New York.
In the communique, the two countries agreed to develop relations based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territory integration, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
The government of the Republic of Kiribati recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China in its entirety and that Taiwan is part of China, the document said.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and Kiribati's President Taneti Maamau exchange documents restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 27, 2019. /Reuters Photo
Earlier in September, the Solomon Islands also established diplomatic ties with China after it severed ties with Taiwan.
During their meeting on Monday (January 6), Xi applauded the decision made by Kiribati.
"Mr. President and the Kiribati government stand on the right side of history," Xi told Maamau, adding that the resumption "fully embodies the strategic vision and political courage".
"China speaks highly of the decision," he added.
Maamau reiterated his support to the one-China policy.
He said the decision of restoring diplomatic relations was made independently and made based on trust and faith.
Kiribati firmly adheres to the one-China policy, and respects China's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and supports China's "One Country, Two Systems" policy, he said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with Kiribati President Taneti Maamau (L) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, January 6, 2020. /Xinhua Photo
Climate, fishery cooperation
The two countries also discussed cooperation in areas such as climate change, fishery and tourism.
During their meeting, Premier Li said the restoration of diplomatic ties has laid foundation for all-round cooperation.
China attaches great importance to the special concerns of Pacific island countries including Kiribati on climate change and is ready to cooperate with Kiribati to address climate change under the framework of South-South cooperation and in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, Li said.
Maamau spoke highly of the fruitful results of bilateral cooperation achieved since September and hailed China's efforts in curbing global warming.
Maamau said his country is willing to enhance cooperation with China in areas such as economy and trade, fishery, agriculture, education, healthcare and people-to-people exchanges.
(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping holds talks with Kiribati President Taneti Maamau at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, January 6, 2020. /AP Photo)