Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations

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Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, gestures beside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill during the Leaders Electrification Project meeting as part of the APEC 2018 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. In a statement issued to media, Papua New Guinea has invited Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States to work together to support its enhanced connectivity and the goal of connecting 70% of its population to electricity by 2030. Currently only about 13% of Papua New Guinea's population have reliable access to electricity. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — A meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea has highlighted divisions between global powers the U.S. and China and a growing competition for influence in the usually neglected South Pacific.

The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on issues such as trade protectionism, making it likely their final statement Sunday will be an anodyne document.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and China’s President Xi Jinping traded barbs in speeches on Saturday. Pence accused China of intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices.

In Port Moresby, the impact of China’s aid and loans is highly visible but the U.S. and allies are countering with efforts to finance infrastructure in Papua New Guinea and other island states.