KABUL/Beijing - China urged its neighbour Afghanistan on Saturday to embrace an inclusive political solution to its long-running conflict during a rare visit by a top Chinese official, who said the very security of his own country’s western regions depended on peace.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi was due to meet President Hamid Karzai during his visit, which coincides with preparations by U.S. and allied troops to draw down their forces after more than 12 years of fighting Taliban extremists.
China, which shares a short border with Afghanistan in the country’s mountainous northeastern corridor, has become increasingly concerned about security in its western region of Xinjiang, where it says Muslim extremists receive help from militants in neighbouring countries.
“The peace and stability of this country has an impact on the security of western China, and more importantly, it affects the tranquillity and development of the entire region,” Wang told a news conference alongside his Afghan counterpart, Zarar Ahmad Osmani. “We hope to see a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and China will play a constructive role to facilitate that...A divided country will have no future.” Wang last visited Kabul in early 2002 when he was vice foreign minister and reopened China’s embassy after the fall of the Taliban government.
His visit coincides with a time of transition for Afghanistan, ahead of both the year-end deadline for the pull-out of foreign troops and an April presidential election. Eleven candidates, representing different ethnic, tribal and religious groups, are competing to replace Karzai, who has served two terms as Afghanistan’s elected president. All pledge to end decades of civil war and insurgent conflict. China has been stepping up its engagement with other regional players in recent months in Afghanistan, Beijing-based diplomats say, mainly out of concern that the NATO-led force’s pullout may spawn instability that could spill into Xinjiang.
“They’re taking a lot of initiative,” said a Beijing-based diplomat who follows China’s relations with Afghanistan, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They’re worried about what will happen in Xinjiang.” Plans by the United States and its allies to keep a small force in Afghanistan to bolster Afghan forces against the Taliban have run up against Karzai’s refusal to sign an accord authorizing the post-2014 foreign troop presence.
The Taliban and its leadership show no signs of renouncing their guerrilla campaign to regain control of Afghanistan. Karzai’s government has had little success pursuing peace talks with the Taliban to produce a political solution.
Meanwhile, China plans to overhaul its securities regulator, merging some departments and creating four units to fill existing gaps, as it looks to reduce unnecessary red tape and create more effective oversight of its fast-developing markets. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) will merge departments overseeing areas from initial public offerings (IPOs) to futures trading, as well as boosting its oversight of illegal trading activity.
China on Saturday accused the US of meddling in its domestic affairs after President Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House, and said it is up to Washington to take steps to avoid further damaging ties.
“The US seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs by allowing the Dalai’s visit to the United States and arranging the meetings with US leaders,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.
“We urge the US to take China’s concerns seriously, stop tolerance and support of anti-China separatist forces, cease interfering in China’s internal affairs and immediately take measures to eliminate its baneful influence to avoid further impairment to China-US relations.”
China had warned on Friday after news broke of the planned meeting that an encounter between Obama and the Dalai Lama would damage relations between Washington and Beijing, and urged the US to cancel it.
Beijing considers Tibet an integral part of its territory and regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist.
The meeting went ahead, however, with Obama on Friday offering his “strong support” for the protection of Tibetans’ human rights in China.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui late Friday in Beijing summoned the charge d’affaires at the US embassy to protest the meeting, the ministry said in a separate statement.
“China expressed strong indignation and firm opposition” to the “erroneous acts” of the US in interfering in China’s internal issues, the ministry quoted Zhang as saying.
The ministry statement identified the US official by a Chinese name, but the official Xinhua news agency in an English-language report gave his name as Daniel Kritenbrink.
“Tibetan issues fall purely into the domestic affairs of China,” Zhang said. “The US has no right to interfere.”
The meeting with the Dalai Lama “will seriously sabotage China-US relations and surely impair the interests of the US itself,” he said. “The US must take concrete actions to win the trust of the Chinese government and its people.” The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.