Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan (常萬全) met with the head of the Afghan National Army, thanking him for Kabul’s support in fighting what Beijing calls an extremist group that seeks to split off its western region of Xinjiang.
China has long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan would spill over into violence-prone Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, where hundreds have died in recent years in unrest blamed by Beijing on Muslim extremists.
The US and the UN have listed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist group, although some experts have questioned its cohesiveness and say China’s policies in Xinjiang have contributed to unrest.
“I thank Afghanistan for its valuable support in combating ETIM terrorist forces and on issues related to China’s core interests,” Chang told Afghan National Army Chief of General Staff General Qadam Shah Shahim.
“I hope the two militaries can continually enrich the shape and content of cooperation and make greater contributions to safeguarding both countries’ security and creating a favorable environment for joint development,” Chang was quoted as saying by China’s Xinhua news agency late on Sunday.
Afghanistan is willing to continue fighting ETIM by “deepening cooperation on personnel training and joint exercises and other means,” a statement on the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Web site cited Shahim as saying.
The report and the statement did not give further details.
China is working with Pakistan and the US to broker peace talks to end a Taliban insurgency that has raged for 15 years in Afghanistan.
Sources in the Taliban told reporters that a Taliban delegation visited China earlier this month, although Chinese officials have not confirmed it.
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