China: Xi Jinping issues defiant message to foreign powers
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Assurances by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came as Washington challenged the deployment of Russian boots on the ground in the former Soviet republic and the massing of almost 100,000 military personnel near Ukraine. He told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a phone call on Monday that China supported a Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in helping Kazakhstan crackdown on “violent and terrorist forces” on the precondition of “respecting Kazakhstan’s sovereignty”, according to the South China Morning Post.
He said the CSTO played “a positive role in restoring stability” in the Central Asian country.
Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered a ruthless crackdown last week after protests about soaring fuel prices were hijacked by violent groups whose members attacked government buildings and seized the airport in the country’s largest city, Almaty.
The Russian-led forces are due to begin withdrawing from Kazakhstan in two days’ time after stabilising the country, Mr Tokayev said on Tuesday.
Russia sent thousands of troops to Kazakhstan within hours of a request for help from Mr Tokayev. Beijing has said it will work with Kazakhstan to improve security cooperation.
Mr Wang told his Russian counterpart: “China and Russia, as permanent members of the UN Security Council and friendly neighbours of Central Asian countries, should never allow chaos or war to erupt in the region.”
He added that both sides should continue to deepen coordination and cooperation, oppose interference by external forces in the internal affairs of Central Asian countries, and guard against “colour revolutions” and the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Mr Wang also urged Russia to support the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a political, economic and security alliance which includes China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and India.
Mr Tokayev has described the violence in his country as a coup attempt with Islamist militants among the perpetrators. At least 160 people died in the unrest with almost 10,000 arrested.
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In a meeting of the CSTO military alliance by video link on Monday, he said order had been restored in Kazakhstan, but that the hunt for “terrorists” continued.
Russia’s deployment in Kazakhstan has fuelled speculation Moscow could create a permanent foothold in the country.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Kazakhstan would find it difficult to reduce Russian influence after inviting troops in to quell the unrest.
He also said he did not expect to see progress in relations between the US and Russia as long as tensions on the Ukraine border remained high.
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The White House said on Tuesday it was too early to tell if Russia was serious about a path to diplomacy in remarks made a day after Russia and the US gave no sign of narrowing their differences on Ukraine and wider European security in talks in Geneva.
Russia said it was not optimistic after the first round of talks and would not allow its demands for security guarantees from the West to become mired in tortuous negotiations.
Mr Wang insisted China would deepen strategic ties “back to back” with Russia, safeguard the “legitimate” interests and rights of both countries besides maintaining world peace.
The South China Morning Post reports that China is also pushing for closer ties with Russian-backed Belarus which has been sanctioned by the UK, US, European Union and Canada over the migrant crisis on its EU border.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was accused of orchestrating an influx of tens of thousands of immigrants along its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Mr Lukashenko in a phone call on Monday that his country was ready to work with Belarus to enhance political trust, boost cooperation and oppose outside forces interfering in Belarusian affairs.
Mr Xi has also voiced Beijing’s opposition to what he described as attempts by foreign forces to stir up trouble with Kazakhstan and any efforts to divide the two countries.
Zhu Yongbiao, a Central Asia affairs expert at Lanzhou University told the South China Morning Post that Beijing’s support for Russia’s military engagement in Kazakhstan and its pursuit of cooperation with the Kremlin stemmed from its own economic and security needs within its own country and Central Asia.
He said China is worried that Western “interference” might be spreading to other nations and the West would support more protests in other nations.
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