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Diplomacy

‘Simply not true’: China rejects claims Apec diplomats tried to ‘barge’ in on PNG minister’s office to influence communique

  • Sources said the officials’ eleventh-hour attempt to steer the summit’s draft statement was stopped by authorities
  • China foreign ministry says the accusations are an attempt to damage relations with PNG
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2018, 6:53am

China has rejected allegations that officials at the Apec summit tried to “barge” into the office of Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister to influence a draft communique from the international event.

Three anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter told Agence France-Presse on Sunday police were called when Chinese delegates allegedly “tried to barge in” to Rimbink Pato’s Port Moresby office on Saturday in an eleventh-hour bid to influence a summit draft communique, but were denied entry.

But China’s foreign ministry quickly rubbished the claims, suggesting the report was an effort to damage China-PNG diplomatic ties.

“That’s simply not true. We are having close interactions with Papua New Guinea colleagues ... we are mostly on the same page both on the process as well as substance on the agenda,” said Wang Xiaolong, director general at the department of international economic affairs of China’s foreign ministry.

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“I believe the accusers are trying to deteriorate China-PNG relations.”

Agence France-Presse reported that one source privy to summit negotiations said: “police were posted outside the minister’s office after they tried to barge in.”

The diplomatic incident came with tensions already high at a summit of Asian-Pacific leaders that has been overshadowed by a spat between the United States and China.

Pato had refused to meet the delegates, according to a source, who said: “It’s not appropriate for the minister to negotiate solo with the Chinese. The Chinese negotiating officials know this.”

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The minister himself sought to play down the incident, telling AFP: “There wasn’t an issue.”

Apec nations usually agree a joint statement but officials are struggling to bridge deep divides on trade policy and admit that a formal communique may not be issued.

During a press conference on Sunday, Wang sought to play down the failure to reach joint communique, saying leaders “made considerable progress” on topics such as infrastructure connectivity, digital development and inclusive growth.

“Leaders reaffirmed the common commitment to keep the momentum going,” he said.

“We will leave it now in the hands of the host nation, PNG, to capture the consensus that emerged during discussions.”

Fuelling divisions in among Asia-Pacific leaders is the future of trade between major economies, namely China and the US, and the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“[Many] economists made their [own] comments on issues related to evolution of multilateral trading systems as well as how to strengthen and improve the function of the WTO,” Wang told reporters after the press conference.

“Frankly, we area in the very early stages of those discussions and different countries have different ideas about how to take that process forward,” he added, acknowledging the member states were vastly divided at the discussion.

Sunday’s claims against Chinese officials are not the first of their kind.

At the Pacific Islands Forum in September, Nauru’s president demanded China apologise after its delegation walked out of a meeting when the host refused to let an envoy speak until island leaders had finished.

“They’re not our friends. They just need us for their own purposes,” President Baron Waqa said at the time.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse