China’s President Xi Jinping said the country supports Papua New Guinea in playing a greater role in international and regional affairs, and is willing to strengthen ties.

Xi made the comments in a meeting with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, who was in Beijing to attend this week’s Belt and Road Forum.

The Pacific Islands nation, which signed a defence cooperation agreement with the United States in May, said China was a significant infrastructure and roads partner.

A resource-rich but underdeveloped nation north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is seeking greater foreign investment and Asian customers for a new gas project.

During talks, Xi said China was willing to strengthen cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, forestry and fishery, clean energy, climate change and other fields with Papua New Guinea, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

Marape said stronger cooperation with China was of great significance not only to Papua New Guinea, but also to the world.

Xi stressed that China has always adhered to the equality of all countries, big or small.

“China’s assistance to Pacific island countries does not attach political conditions, does not seek exclusive rights, does not impose on others, does not write ’empty promises’, and fully respects the wishes and actual needs of Pacific island countries,” Xi said.

China has become a significant infrastructure lender to Pacific Islands nations, emerging as the largest creditor to several countries in the region, prompting Australia and the United States to boost aid and diplomacy in the region.

Xi said China will continue to deepen cooperation with Pacific island countries to contribute to the long-term economic and social development of the region.

Fiji’s deputy prime minister Bill Gavoka is also attending the forum in Beijing while Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka visits Australia.