China’s Xi vows to ‘defend common security’ ahead of Central Asia visit

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China’s President Xi Jinping on Tuesday vowed to “defend common security” with Kazakhstan, state media reported, as he prepares to travel to Central Asia this week.

Xi’s state visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from Wednesday to Friday will be his first trip abroad since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

He will attend a leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, a stop on the ancient Silk Road.

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The SCO is made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

“China is willing to work with Kazakhstan to deepen cooperation in law enforcement, security and defense,” Xi wrote in an article for Kazakh media that was republished by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

He added that Beijing also wanted to work with Kazakhstan to combat drug trafficking and transnational organized crime as well as what China calls the “three evils.”

China’s government has previously used the term “three evils” – defined as terrorism, separatism and religious extremism – to refer to its crackdown in its far western region of Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan.

Beijing stands accused of detaining over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang – including some Kazakhs – under a years-long security campaign that the United States and some lawmakers in other Western countries have labelled a “genocide.”

China vociferously denies the allegations, saying its actions are aimed at combating terrorism and juicing development.

In a separate article for Uzbek media, Xi pledged to “strengthen security cooperation and resolve risks and challenges” and said Uzbekistan had a “unique role to play in resolving the Afghanistan issue,” CCTV reported.

“The two sides must take a clear stand against any forces undermining the regional security situation,” CCTV reported Xi as writing.

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