China Completes Pacific Islands Sweep As Kiribati Signs Up To The Belt & Road Initiative

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China and and Pacific Island nation of Kiribati have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kiribati’s President Taneti Mamau witnessed the signing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing after holding diplomatic talks. China and Kiribati resumed diplomatic relations in September 2019 on the basis of the One China Policy, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The signing means that China has signed Belt and Road deals with all the 10 Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China.

Because of its location, Kiribati was home to Beijing’s first overseas space tracking system, which played an important role in the Shenzhou manned space missions and the Beidou navigation systems.

Kiribati’s population is just over 110,000, more than half of whom live on Taraa Atoll. The Republic comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island. They have a total land area of 800 square kilometres; dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres of Ocean.

The Kiribati spread straddles both the equator and the 180th meridican, although the International Date Line goes around Kiribati and swings far to the east. Kiribati’s easternmost islands, the southern Line Islands, south of Hawaii, have the most advanced time on Earth: UTC +14 hours.

Kiribati became independent from Great Britain in 1979. Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.

Chinese interest in Kiribati is centered on the fishing industry, with about 50% of global Tuna stocks coming from the Pacific. The island offers a base for Chinese fishing fleets, while there are also thought to be oil and gas reserves. However, global warming is proving difficult in the area, as sea levels continue to rise.

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