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China's Xi Says Silk Road Plan Expands Finance, Security Ties

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Belt and Road forum in Beijing on May 14.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Belt and Road forum in Beijing on May 14.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as leaders from 29 countries gathered to promote a Chinese trade initiative that could increase Beijing's global influence on trade and geopolitics.

The two-day summit is showcasing Xi's One Belt, One Road initiative, a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, first unveiled in 2013.

Xi has pledged $124 billion in funds for the initiative, which seeks to connect China with Africa, Asia, and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads, and industrial parks.

Speaking before an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi assured Western diplomats that the plan was not simply an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally.

"In advancing the Belt and Road, we will not retread the old path of games between foes. Instead we will create a new model of cooperation and mutual benefit," Xi said.

Xi has defended globalization as U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to put "America First" in international trade and relations.

Shortly after the summit had begun, U.S. and South Korean military officials confirmed that Pyongyang had launched a ballistic missile.

While Xi did not mention North Korea during his speech, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it opposed such missile tests.

Xi also pledged $8.7 billion in aid to countries and international organizations that participate in the Silk Road plan. Xi said the project was open to everyone, including those in Europe and Africa.

Putin, speaking at the opening of the summit, told participants that protectionism was a threat to the global economy.

Putin also complained about "illegal sanctions," a possible reference to a series of Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Few Western leaders are attending the summit, although Britain, France, and Germany are represented by top finance officials. The United States sent a senior White House adviser.

Also attending the summit are Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Ahead of Beijing's international forum, Pakistan signed new deals with China worth nearly $500 million. Officials said on May 13 that the deals added to the $57 billion already pledged for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The CPEC effort consists of rail, road, and energy infrastructure and is part of the "Belt and Road" initiative.

Pakistan's traditional foe, India, refused to send an official delegation to Beijing, reflecting displeasure with China for developing the $57 billion trade corridor through Pakistan that also traverses the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on May 13 raised concerns about the treatment of people along the new Silk Road route in western China that borders Central Asia.

The group said Chinese authorities had "heightened surveillance and repression to prevent potential unrest that could impede" the project in the Xinjiang region, which is the homeland of the Turkic-speaking and mainly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, BBC and AFP

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