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Kabul backs Beijing stance on S. China Sea

Updated May 17, 2016

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BEIJING: China on Monday said landlocked Afghanistan has expressed support for Beijing’s stance on the South China Sea dispute, the latest country from outside the region to line up behind China’s calls for bilateral talks on the issue.

The Foreign Ministry said Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah made the statement in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing that also touched on security cooperation along their border in China’s volatile western region of Xinjiang.

“Our Afghan counterparts expressed their gratitude for China’s long-term support over the years, and also said they support China’s position on the South China Sea issue and support China’s efforts to resolve the South China Sea issue through bilateral channels and through peaceful means such as negotiation and consultation,” the deputy director general of the ministry’s department of Asian Affairs, Hou Yanqi, told reporters following the talks.

Hou said Li also expressed China’s willingness to help with Afghanistan’s national reconciliation process, provide assistance for projects including the construction of low-cost housing and boost imports of Afghan agricultural projects.

China has been seeking support from friendly nations for its bilateral approach to settling South China Sea territorial disputes, largely to counter efforts by the US, Philippines and others to challenge China’s claim to virtually the entire sea and creation of new islands out of coral reefs. Russia has so far been the most prominent nation to publicly endorse China’s position.

China has refused to participate in international arbitration on the matter brought by the Philippines and

undermined efforts to approach the issue multilaterally through the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2016