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Xi Jinping

Maldives supports China's plan for 'maritime Silk Road'

China pledges more help to island nation to cope with climate change as Xi begins South Asia tour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 5:26pm

China enlisted backing from the Maldives to create a "maritime Silk Road for the 21st century" as President Xi Jinping launched his three-nation South Asia tour in the island nation yesterday.

In his talks in the capital Male with Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, Xi also pledged more aid to help the Maldives to tackle climate change.

The two leaders then witnessed the signing of nine cooperation agreements, including a memorandum of understanding on the construction of a bridge connecting Male with the airport island of Hulhule.

Maritime cooperation was a key item on the agenda, with China and the Maldives pledging to work together on maritime economic development and security.

The two nations also said they supported the establishment of the maritime Silk Road, an initiative touted by Beijing to revive an ancient trade route running from China through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean to Europe.

"I look forward to exchanging views with you on bilateral cooperation … especially on the 21st century maritime Silk Road, and seeking progress," Xi was quoted by state-run China Central Television as saying.

Xi told Yameen that there were no obstacles to ties between the two countries and their bilateral relationship was boosted by their desire for cooperation.

Xi also said China recognised the concerns of the Maldives in tackling climate change and pledged to give Male more material aid and training for personnel.

"China will work with the Maldives to strengthen coordination in international negotiations on climate change, pushing for talks to result in a comprehensive and balanced outcome based on the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibility'. [We also seek to] protect the interests of developing nations," Xi said.

The commitment comes ahead of next week's United Nations Climate Summit in New York, which Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli will attend as Xi's special envoy.

Wang Dehua , a professor at the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies, said that at the summit China might demand developed nations put more effort into tackling climate change.

A joint declaration issued after the talks said China would also encourage more Chinese companies to invest in the Maldives, and more tourists to visit the nation. But Xi also demanded that Male improve protection for Chinese tourists.

Yameen said Chinese investment was key for the Maldives, which was at a crucial stage in its development.

The Maldives' Sun Online news quoted Yameen as saying the nation aimed to become a mid-income country.