A top Chinese diplomat has conveyed Beijing’s desire to Washington to respect Islamabad’s security interests.
Chinese state media reports say State Councilor Yang Jiechi conveyed the message to U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson after U.S. President Donald Trump called on Pakistan this week to end terrorist sanctuaries on its soil.
"We must value Pakistan's important role in the Afghanistan issue and respect Pakistan's sovereignty and reasonable security concerns," Yang, who outranks China's foreign minister, told Tillerson on August 23.
This is the second time Beijing has defended its key South Asian ally and neighbor after Trump warned Pakistan that Washington “can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.”
But Beijing views Islamabad as being at the forefront of counter-terrorism efforts. “For many years, it has made positive efforts and great sacrifices for combating terrorism and made important contributions to upholding world peace and regional stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told journalists on August 22.
“We believe the international community should fully recognize the efforts made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism,” she said.
Yang, however, told Tillerson that Beijing was willing to join Washington in efforts toward peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
"China is committed to advancing the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan," he said. “Political dialogue is the only solution to the Afghanistan issue.”
In recent years, Beijing and Islamabad have expanded their strategic alliance, which was mainly centered on countering their mutual regional rival, India.
China is now a leading investor in Pakistan. It is investing more than $50 billion in infrastructure and energy development in the country. The investments, collectively called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, are a key project of Chinese President Xi Jinping's global Belt and Road development plan.
On August 22, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Beijing. He also praised Islamabad’s efforts to combat extremism.
"Given the current complicated and changing international and regional situation, the strategic significance of China-Pakistan relations is even more prominent," he said.
– With reporting from Reuters, AFP, and Xinhua