China plays down rivalry with US in South Pacific

China denied it was competing with Washington in the Pacific islands Thursday, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived at a regional summit aiming to reassert US influence.

In a press conference that coincided with Clinton's arrival at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in the Cook Islands, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said Beijing simply wanted to help developing island states.

While the appearance of the top US diplomat at the summit has been widely seen as a move to contain China's growing influence among small island nations, Cui said diplomatic manoeuvering was not Beijing's priority.

"We are here in this region not to seek any particular influence, still less dominance, we are here to work with other countries to achieve sustainable development," he said.

"We're here to be a good partner for the island countries, we're not here to compete with anyone."

Cui pointed out that China had sent a delegation to the annual PIF summit for decades and had a long-established presence in the region.

"Whether they (the United States) can get used to that is up to them, it's not up to us," he said when asked if Washington would have to accept China's presence in the region as a fact of life.

"We're here to help the developing island countries. If they have the same intention I don't expect any major difficulties in working with each other."

The United States has made the Asia-Pacific region a foreign policy priority, creating tensions with rising power China, which has poured aid estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars into island nations in recent years.

Cui would not reveal how much aid had been doled out by China but said the development programme "is not motivated by any self-centred grand strategy of our own".

"It is motivated by a genuine desire to be a good partner for these countries. I just hope other countries will do the same," he said.

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