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China Says Discusses With Pakistan 'New Changes' In Afghanistan Situation


FILE: Chinese President Xi Jinping met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November.

(Reuters) - Senior Chinese and Pakistani diplomats have discussed "new changes" to the situation in Afghanistan, China's foreign ministry said, amid plans by the United States to withdraw about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops based in the country.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that President Donald Trump has issued verbal orders to plan for a drawdown of close to 7,000 U.S. troops. The White House and the Pentagon have not yet commented publicly.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been deepening its economic and political ties with Kabul and is using its influence to try to bring the two uneasy neighbors closer.

Meeting in Beijing, the Chinese government's top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a "deep discussion about new changes to the situation in Afghanistan and reached a broad consensus," China's Foreign Ministry said on December 25.

"Both sides believe that military means cannot resolve the Afghanistan issue, and promoting political reconciliation is the only realistic way," the ministry said in its short statement.

"The two sides welcome the various efforts made by all parties and are willing to maintain close communication and strategic coordination."

There was no direct mention of the planned U.S. troop drawdown.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a daily news briefing, reiterated the statement and did not answer a question on whether the meeting was connected to the U.S. troop withdrawal.

Wang visited Kabul earlier this month, where he pledged to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome their longstanding suspicions of each other.

China has long worried about the effect of instability in Afghanistan on China's violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people and where China says it faces a threat from Islamist militants.

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