Xi warns of dangers of conflict while Pence lets fly

Mike Pence announces US-Australia military pact to expand Manus Island naval base
Protectionism 'doomed to failure', Xi Jinping says in swipe at US

18 November, 2018

Speaking in the Papua New Guinean capital, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said there would be no end to American tariffs until China changed its ways, after its president, Xi Jinping, warned that the shadow of protectionism and unilateralism was hanging over global growth.

President Donald Trump chose to skip the summit in Papua New Guinea, leaving the door open for Xi who arrived two days earlier for a state visit and has been the undoubted star of the show.

The US and China are now locked into a trade dispute, with the US threatening to double tariffs unless Beijing bows to its demands.

The United States has conducted a series of "freedom of navigation" exercises in the contested South China Sea, angering Beijing, which says the moves threaten its sovereignty.

China's President Xi Jinping (習近平) stood left in the front row, so no interaction with the Taiwanese envoy occurred, CNA reported.

"And just like America, always put your country first". The project, which could take decades and cost trillions of dollars to complete, was harshly criticized by Pence and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whom Trudeau will meet Sunday. "When you partner with us, we partner with you and we all prosper".

Mr Pence's announcement fuels an already tense bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China, including the threat of a full-blown trade war.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the USA involvement in the redevelopment of a naval base at Manus Island has been at Papua New Guinea's request.

"History has shown that confrontation - whether in the form of a cold war, hot war or trade war - will produce no winners", he said.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Asian nations may be forced to choose between China and the US.

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Mr Xi said: "Let me make this clear - the BRI is an open platform for cooperation".

During his speech, Pence also announced a few new initiatives aimed at showing US commitment to the region.

Mike Pence announced the Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative, a good government programme that he said would be backed by $400 in United States funding.

But even those island nations are being pulled into a geopolitical tug of war between China and the United States.

Mr Pence's announcement comes as Australia seeks to balance its allegiances to both China and the US.

Also revealed was the new US$400 million Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative to "empower citizens to combat corruption and strengthen sovereignty". "We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road".

The APEC summit has developed into a tussle for influence between an increasingly assertive China and a more withdrawn US.

In April next year, China will host the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, the Chinese president announced, adding that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major and transparent initiative with which China shares opportunities and pursues common development with the rest of the world.

"They (China) are looking at creating long-term deals and guarantees with these smaller countries to extend their own commercial, military and hegemonic interest", said Shuvaloy Majumdar with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a former Conservative government policy adviser. "It is not an exclusive club that is closed to non-members, nor is it a trap as some people have labelled".

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