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'Secret' China Trip Causes

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By Duran Angiki USP's Pacific Journalism Online

GIZO, SOLOMON ISLANDS (WP): The Solomon Islands Prime Minister has not ruled out sacking his minister of foreign affairs who went on a secret trip to Beijing without government approval.

"It is one of the options available but one thing that certain, Mr Philip will not return to Taiwan as Solomon Islands Foreign Minister,” Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in a media statement.

Danny Philip flew out of Brisbane on Monday to China an hour before he was due to meet the Republic of China's Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Wu.

Sogavare said his government would like to wait and hear from Philip, who is scheduled to arrive back in Honiara tomorrow, about why he had "taken the secret trip to Beijing".

Philip left the Solomons to open the country’s embassy in Taipei but the Prime Minister had to postpone the trip on arrival in Brisbane, due to what the government claimed as an "unpredictable political situation in Taiwan".

The Prime Minister said he recalled the foreign affairs minister after the indefinite postponement of the embassy opening.

Sogavare stated that he had never sanctioned the trip and only come to know about it when Philip called him from Hong Kong to inform him about his trip.

Government sources revealed yesterday that Philip had been understood to be lured by certain middlemen to visit Beijing and secure a financial deal.

The minister was promised US$200 million by the middlemen if the Solomon Islands government switched allegiance from Taiwan to Mainland China.

According to political sources, the government did not know what happened to the deal that had now become an embarrassment to the governments of both Solomons and Taiwan.

As of yesterday afternoon, the government had understood that Philip was still in Beijing but would be on his way back to Brisbane, Australia.

Sources said information regarding the Prime Minister’s claim that he had been totally unaware of Philip’s trip to Beijing was questionable.

Following the embarrassment caused by Philip to the Vice-Premier of Taiwan in Brisbane and the revelation of his trip, its embassy in Honiara had resolved not to correspond with him in the future.

According to sources, the current Solomon Islands government foreign policy in relation with the case of Taiwan and Mainland China has been confusing.

Two weeks ago, the Solomon Islands government Minister of Fisheries, George Luialamo, signed a deal in Taipei with the Taiwan Boat-owners and Exporters Association.

The agreement that took effect on October 1 allowed 42 Taiwanese boats to fish in Solomon Islands territorial waters by paying one fishing licence for USD$5,000.

Luialamo agreed and signed the agreement after coming down from USD$40,000 to USD$5,000.

+++niuswire


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