China envoy defends Pakistan in Tillerson call

BEIJING • The United States must value Pakistan's role in Afghanistan and respect its security concerns, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call, said Chinese state media.

China's Foreign Ministry defended its ally Pakistan earlier this week after President Donald Trump said the US could no longer be silent about militants using safe havens on Pakistani soil.

On Monday, Mr Trump committed the US to an open-ended conflict in Afghanistan, signalling he would send more troops to America's longest war and vowing "a fight to win".

He insisted that others - the Afghan government, Pakistan, India and Nato allies - step up their own commitment to resolving the 16-year conflict, but he saved his sharpest words for Pakistan.

Mr Yang, who outranks China's foreign minister, told Mr Tillerson on Wednesday that China was willing to coordinate with the US on Afghanistan and make joint efforts to realise peace and stability there and in the region, according to a Chinese statement issued late that night.

"We must value Pakistan's important role on the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan's sovereignty and reasonable security concerns," Mr Yang told Mr Tillerson.

IMPORTANT ROLE

We must value Pakistan's important role on the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan's sovereignty and reasonable security concerns.

MR YANG JIECHI, China's top diplomat, telling US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

China and Pakistan consider each other "all-weather friends" and have close diplomatic, economic and security ties.

Pakistan has been battling home-grown Islamists for years. It sees Afghanistan as a vital strategic interest and a bulwark against its old rival, India. Islamabad denies harbouring militants, who move across the porous border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was scheduled to meet powerful generals yesterday to formulate a response to the new US policy on Afghanistan that includes greater pressure on Islamabad to do more to rein in militants.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'China envoy defends Pakistan in Tillerson call'. Print Edition | Subscribe