China on Friday told Sri Lanka that it is ready to provide “urgently needed help,” an offer that came after the South Asian nation deployed its military to quell anger over its worst economic crisis in decades.
“China is willing to play a constructive role to help Sri Lanka achieve stable economic and social development under the principle of non-interference in internal affairs,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) said in a telephone call with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Rajapaksa said he appreciated China’s strong support when his country faced difficulties, Xinhua reported.
It added that he said Sri Lanka is willing to promote talks on a free-trade agreement, and to deepen cooperation in areas including finance, trade and tourism.
Citizens angered by worsening food and fuel shortages and rising living costs have taken to the streets to demand the ouster of the Rajapaksa family.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered a three-day military deployment before the funeral of a protester killed earlier this week when police fired at crowds.
The government in Colombo is seeking as much as US$4 billion in emergency aid this year to help the island nation ease hours-long power cuts, shorten fuel lines that stretch kilometers, and pay for imported medicines and food. With a loan from the IMF contingent upon conditions, including a restructure of existing debt, the island nation is turning to bilateral credit.
Sri Lankan Ambassador to China Palitha Kohona said in WeChat that China’s firm commitment of assistance would contribute significantly.
Kohona said he is confident that China would come through on US$2.5 billion in financial support.
He said he had received reassurances from authorities in China that arrangements for loans and credit lines were progressing.
Sri Lanka was looking to borrow US$1 billion from Beijing so that it can repay existing Chinese loans due in July, as well as a US$1.5 billion credit line to purchase goods from the world’s No. 2 economy such as textiles needed to support the apparel export industry, he said.
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