Sun Yuxi appointed special envoy to Afghanistan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 3:40am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:12am

China has appointed a special envoy for Afghan affairs amid rising concerns over security in the war-tone nation following the withdrawal of Western troops.

Veteran diplomat Sun Yuxi, a former Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, India, Italy and Poland, had been named as the special envoy, the Foreign Ministry said.

"China and Afghanistan have traditionally been friendly neighbours," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in the statement. "China is highly concerned with the development of the situation in Afghanistan, and is committed to deepening the strategic cooperative partnership between the two nations."

The appointment came as China prepares to play a more robust role in the nation, a move observers believe is triggered by fears militants might sneak into the restive Xinjiang region in western China.

Beijing had previously accused some Uygurs, the main ethnic minority in the region, of calling on people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to join the "holy war". "The security is worrying after Nato troops pulled out. Afghanistan is unstable and terrorism may be spreading," said Sun Shihai, a South Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Calls have mounted for China to increase its security commitment along with boosting its economic presence in the country. For example, a US$3.5 billion copper mine project in Aynak, invested by state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China and Jiangxi Copper Corporation, has been attacked by terrorists several times over the past year.

Beijing earlier pledged to provide training to 300 Afghan police. Last week, a conference on the country's future co-chaired by the deputy foreign ministers of both nations was held in Beijing.

Sun expected Beijing would refrain from becoming involved in domestic affairs. "The conflicts between different religious groups and races are too complicated," he said.