Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

Mr Antony Blinken promised strong American support as Pakistan dries out and rebuilds from the floods. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on floods-devastated Pakistan to seek debt relief from its close partner China.

Mr Blinken promised strong American support as Pakistan dries out and rebuilds from the floods, which have submerged a third of the country, an area the size of Britain.

"We send a simple message. We are here for Pakistan, just as we were during past natural disasters, looking ahead to rebuild," he said after talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

"I also urged our colleagues to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructuring, so that Pakistan can more quickly recover from the floods," he added.

China is a key economic and political partner of Pakistan, pushing ahead with a US$54 billion (S$78 billion) "economic corridor" that will build infrastructure and give it an outlet to the Indian Ocean.

Washington, whose Cold War alliance with Islamabad has frayed, has repeatedly charged that China will reap the benefits while Pakistan will face unsustainable debt. The warnings by the US, which considers China its preeminent global competitor, have repeatedly been brushed aside by Pakistan.

But China has faced concerns about security following a series of attacks linked to separatists, including a suicide bombing in April on a minibus from a Chinese cultural programme that killed four people, three of them Chinese.

Some 1,600 people have died in Pakistan's floods and more than seven million displaced, amid fears that such severe disasters will become more common due to climate change.

The United States has committed US$56 million in humanitarian aid and sent 17 planes full of supplies, with Mr Blinken promising to look at longer-term support, as well. AFP

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