Beijing - The Chinese Foreign Ministry defended the country’s all-weather ally, Pakistan, amidst reports that the US is exploring hardening its approach toward Pakistan.

China on Thursday asked the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and backed its all-weather ally for being on the “forefront” of the fight against terrorism.

“Pakistan is an important country in South Asia. Peace, stability and economic development in Pakistan serve the interest of regional countries and people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the media here.

He was responding to reports that the US is exploring hardening its approach toward Pakistan.

“Pakistan is on the forefront of global fight against terrorism. It has been firmly opposing terrorism and has made important sacrifices and contribution to fighting terrorism and maintaining regional security and stability,” Geng said.

The spokesman said the international community should acknowledge that and support the counter-terrorism efforts made by Pakistan on the basis of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan.

Asked about reports from Pakistan that Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, is likely to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan this weekend to defuse tensions between the two neighbours, Geng said that China will continue to have friendly exchanges with the two countries but declined to confirm reports about Wang’s visit.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are China’s neighbours. We have friendly relations with the two counties as well as high-level exchanges. So, if we have any information we will release in due course,” he said. “China sincerely hopes that Pakistan and Afghanistan enhance their communication to deepen their mutual trust and improve relations. They should work together to ensure regional peace and stability and China would like to play a constructive role to that end,” he said.