China to US: Middle East ‘not the backyard’ of any country

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China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it won’t take a backseat to the US in the Middle East, as President Joe Biden visits the region to reassert American leadership.

“The Middle East is not the backyard of any other country and there is no such thing as vacuum in the region” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing on Friday.

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Underscoring the country’s efforts in promoting peace and fair resolutions on the regional issues, Wang said “China is ready to work with the international community to continue to play a positive role in realizing peace and development in the Middle East.”

Wang also insited that his country would “fully respect and listen to the will of the Pacific island countries” after the head of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) accused China of trying to pushing ahead with a sweeping new agreement covering everything from security to fisheries in the region in May.

Henry Puna, Secretary General of the PIF, told reporters Thursday that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came to the region with a prepared “outcome document” for the meetings with his islands’ counterparts that yet to happen.

Wang argued that China had “consulted extensively” with the island nations over the document and that a “consultation process” is essential for the conclusion of an important deal.

“We will continue to maintain communication on this with the island countries,” Wang added.

The United States and the forum’s wealthiest nations, Australia and New Zealand, are concerned about China’s growing influence in the region, in particular its security pact with the Solomon Islands that could set off a large-scale military buildup.

Wang again stated Beijing’s readiness to work with other countries and international financial institutions to help Sri Lanka get over the difficulties as the country sought for an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to pay for food and other imports.

Beijing has promised 500 million yuan ($75 million) of emergency aid to Sri Lanka and delivered its second shipment of food this week, Wang said.

Beijing is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest creditors after building a port and airport under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative to expand trade-related infrastructure across Asia and Africa.

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