Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Xi fetes deepening Panama ties ahead of visit

Reuters, PANAMA CITY

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) held up Panama as a “natural” partner for deeper ties in an article published on Friday ahead of a visit likely to unnerve traditional Panamanian ally the US.

Xi heaped compliments on Panama ahead of his arrival tomorrow in a column that he penned in local newspaper La Estrella de Panama, saying that the country enjoyed “world fame for the Panama Canal, geisha coffee and tasty tropical fruits such as bananas.”

He said that China and Panama were “natural partners” to cooperate on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese government strategy to build global infrastructure projects.

Last year, the two countries established diplomatic relations after Panama broke off ties with Taiwan.

The Dominican Republic and El Salvador followed suit in cutting out Taiwan in favor of China.

“In just a-year-and-a-half, bilateral ties have gained strength with extraordinary cooperation,” Xi wrote. “The entire international community has listened to the declaration of Panama to adhere to the ‘one China’ principle and seen the will of our peoples to support the development of bilateral relations in unison.”

Washington has expressed rising concern over the growing influence of China, which has turned Central America into a proxy battleground for influence between superpowers for the first time since the Cold War.

Panama has insisted its relationship with Washington is still solid.

“We believe that the development of an agenda between Panama and China should not affect in any way our relationship with the United States, with which we have had a very strong common agenda for more than a hundred years,” Panamanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Isabel de Saint Malo said on Thursday.

China has become the second-biggest user of the Panama Canal, behind the US, Xi said.

Panama and China opened free-trade talks in July that could turn the Central American country into a hub for Chinese goods across Latin America.

Chinese companies have won multimillion-dollar tenders to build a bridge over the Panama Canal and a cruise ship terminal.

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