2 Jun 2006

Marshalls delegation to visit China

7:10 am on 2 June 2006

A high-level delegation of Marshall Islands parliamentarians is heading for Beijing next week, in a visit that is stirring the China-Taiwan rivalry for political recognition in the Pacific region.

The trip has reportedly upset Taiwanese officials and the Marshall Islands President, Kessai Note, who was in Taiwan in April for a state visit.

The Marshall Islands has had diplomatic ties with Taiwan since 1998.

The parliamentary speaker, Litokwa Tomeing, was to head the delegation but has now handed it to the vice-speaker, Ruben Zackhras, who will lead the seven parliamentary committee.

Mr Tomeing has acknowledged that the President and Taiwanese officials have expressed concerns but he says there is nothing wrong with it.

He says the trip, paid for by China's National People's Congress, is a legislature-to-legislature exchange and an expression of friendship.

But Taiwanese officials fear it could be a move to engineer a return of recognition from Taipei to Beijing.