Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Johnson Smith says she won’t be drawn on US-China spat

Published:Saturday | November 16, 2019 | 12:29 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith yesterday poured scorn on The Gleaner’s editorial on November 13, dubbed ‘Call in Tapia’, charging that the instructions from the newspaper “have been pulled together to carry out somebody else’s agenda”.

In a quick sotto voce comment on the issue, government Senator Aubyn Hill declared: “Not from North Street or anywhere else.”

The editorial urged Johnson Smith to summon, Donald Tapia, the top US diplomat here, to her office and send him a clear message that Jamaica’s foreign policy was not formulated at the US State Department.

In a Gleaner exclusive reported on November 12, Tapia made stinging criticism of the Holness administration’s warming relationship with Beijing.

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown yesterday “commended the Gleaner editorial, saying “some calling in needs to be done”. Seemingly pushing back at remarks from Tapia, who cautioned Jamaica against its deepening relationship with China, Brown said that Jamaica must not be lectured on the countries with which it chooses to forge ties.

However, Johnson Smith said she had taken note of the editorial, but would go no further than that.

“In terms of the advice that was given, it is interesting to juxtapose it with the understanding that the instructions which were being given are being given in the context of information which is actually somewhat dated and was published to tie in with a particular action … .

“So I appreciate the guidance which is being given and will only respond that at any given time, I, as minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, act in the best interest of Jamaica, land we love, at all times,” she added.

Earlier, a blunt Brown said that Jamaica must remain resolute and “tell others they must mind their business because Jamaica will support what is right for the world, but more, we will support what is right for us in Jamaica.

“Our history has shown that we have stood up for what is right, from Norman Manley standing up against apartheid South Africa, to Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson, Edward Seaga, Bruce Golding, coming right through to Portia Simpson Miller.”

Directing his remarks to Johnson Smith, the opposition senator, said: “I look forward to the report on the China trip.”

Holness, fresh from a visit to China at the weekend, was expected to make a statement on Tuesday to Parliament on his trip to that country.

The agenda of the House of Representatives on Tuesday listed a statement by Holness on his trip to Asia as the first item on the Order Paper. However, the statement was not made on Tuesday.

Johnson Smith had accompanied the prime minister on his China visit.

Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Kingston fired back at a senior United States military commander who warned Jamaica to be wary of China’s presence in the region.

Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the United States Southern Command, insisted that China did not share the common values and philosophies that America and Jamaica cherished.

However, the Chinese expressed “strong” opposition at the US claims, countering that its relationship with Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean has been on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com