China’s foreign minister signed a series of agreements in East Timor on his final stop of a 10-day diplomatic blitz of the South Pacific on Friday, boosting ties between Beijing and Southeast Asia’s youngest country.
Wang Yi met with East Timor’s top diplomat Adaljiza Magno in the capital 1 for a signing ceremony where they penned agreements on agriculture, media partnerships and economic and technical cooperation.
The nations also signed a deal on the dispatch of a Chinese medical team to East Timor, according to a government programme seen by journalists.
The United States and Australia have expressed concern about Beijing’s widening influence in the South Pacific in countries such as the Solomon Islands where a key security agreement was rubber-stamped at the start of Wang’s eight-nation tour last week.
But there were no deals on military or security matters with East Timor on Friday.
“The bilateral relationship between Timor-Leste and China has been very good, especially in the economic sector,” economic minister Joaquim Amaral told reporters.
“The close relationship that Timor-Leste and China have built is very important,” he said, citing a potential role for Beijing in helping his country join regional bloc ASEAN.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that became independent from Indonesia in 2002 after 24 years of occupation, swore in its new president last month and he has set out to grow the country’s relationship with Beijing.
But Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta appeared to balance his country’s position in the US-China rivalry in his inauguration speech.
He pledged to expand bilateral relations with Beijing while praising Washington for its role in developing East Timor’s infrastructure.
China has marked East Timor as a partner in its Belt and Road investment strategy, the flagship project of President Xi Jinping.