Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 4 News List

China welcomes all as US complains

‘BRIDGES, NOT WALLS’:Xinhua news agency said that China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative would help developing countries, which have been neglected by the West

Reuters, BEIJING

China welcomes all countries to participate at its forum on the “One Belt, One Road” plan, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday after the US warned Beijing that North Korea’s attendance could affect other countries’ participation.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said the US embassy in Beijing had submitted a diplomatic note to the ministry, saying that inviting North Korea sent the wrong message at a time when the world was trying to pressure Pyongyang over its repeated missile and nuclear tests.

The spat over North Korea threatens to overshadow the summit, China’s most important diplomatic event of the year for an initiative championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Asked about the US note, the ministry said in a short statement that it did “not understand the situation.”

“The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive one,” The statement said. “We welcome all countries delegations to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.”

The ministry did not elaborate.

It said on Tuesday that North Korea would send a delegation to the summit, but gave no other details.

China has not announced who North Korea’s chief delegate will be, but South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Kim Yong-jae, North Korea’s minister of external economic relations, would lead the delegation.

Delegates are to hold a series of sessions today to discuss the plan in more detail, including trade and finance.

China has given few details about attendees.

Leaders from 29 countries are to attend the forum in Beijing on today and tomorrow, an event orchestrated to promote Xi’s vision of expanding links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

Some Western diplomats have expressed unease about both the summit and the plan as a whole, seeing it as an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally.

China has rejected criticism of the plan and the summit, saying the scheme is open to all, is a win-win and aimed only at promoting prosperity.

In an English-language commentary yesterday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said the new Silk Road, officially called the Belt and Road initiative, would be a boon for developing countries that had been largely neglected by the West.

“As some Western countries move backwards by erecting walls, China is contriving to build bridges, both literal and metaphorical. These bridges are China’s important offering to the world, and a key route to improving global governance,” it said.

Despite Chinese anger at North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, Beijing remains the isolated state’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, even as it has signed up for tough UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

China has over the years tried to coax North Korea into cautious, export-oriented economic reforms, rather than saber rattling and nuclear tests, but to little avail.

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