US says will not send high-level officials to China's Silk Road summit

Washington sees China as major strategic rival

Reuters April 03, 2019
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON DC: The United States will not send high-level officials to attend China’s second Belt and Road summit in Beijing this month, a spokesperson for the US State Department said on Tuesday, citing concerns about financing practices for the project.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, said on Saturday that almost 40 foreign leaders would take part in the summit due to be held in Beijing in late April. He rejected criticisms of the project as “prejudiced.”

The first summit for the project, which envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending, was held in 2017 and was attended by Matt Pottinger, the senior White House official for Asia.

There are no such plans this year.

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“We will not send high-level officials from the United States,” a spokesperson for the US State Department said in answer to a question from Reuters.

“We will continue to raise concerns about opaque financing practices, poor governance, and disregard for internationally accepted norms and standards, which undermine many of the standards and principles that we rely upon to promote sustainable, inclusive development, and to maintain stability and a rules-based order."

“We have repeatedly called on China to address these concerns,” the official added.

On Saturday, Yang called such criticisms “prejudiced,” saying China has never forced debt upon participants and the project was to promote joint development.

While he did not name the 40 leaders he said would attend, but some of China’s closest allies have already confirmed they will be there, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The United States has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan this month, during a visit by Xi to Rome, the first for a G7 nation.

Washington sees China as major strategic rival and the Trump administration has engaged Beijing in a tit-for-tat tariff war. The world’s two biggest economies have levied tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of bilateral trade since