BEIJING - Ahead of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s visit here, China on Tuesday tacitly confirmed reports that it was taking over the strategic Gwadar deep water port in Balochistan, which it may convert into an oil pipeline hub to augment its energy supplies from the Gulf.

Asked about Pakistan’s Federal Minister Babar Khan Ghauri’s remarks that China may take over the port operations with USD 10 billion investment following pullout of Singapore Port Authority (SPA), Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said both countries are engaged in cooperation to build infrastructure projects.

“China and Pakistan are neighbours of traditional friendship. Over the years, China and Pakistan have engaged in wide-ranging cooperation in all fields including infrastructure construction with a view to helping Pakistan improve people’s well-being and promote social and economic development,” Hong said in a written response to a query. “Such cooperation is also beneficial to regional stability and development,” he said, without directly referring to Babar’s comments.

He also did not say whether the issue would be discussed during Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s visit to attend the World Economic Forum 2012, also known as Summer Davos, starting from September 11th at Tianjin city.

The forum would be inaugurated by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who is expected to hold talks with Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on its sidelines.