Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has pledged not to allow “any outside influences” to interfere with Sri Lanka’s internal matters, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said on Tuesday.
“As Sri Lanka’s strategic partner China will continue to standby Sri Lanka’s interests. China stands for the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. We will not allow any outside influences to interfere with matters that are essentially internal concerns of Sri Lanka,” Mr. Wang pledged, according to a press statement issued by Mr. Rajapaksa’s media division. The meeting marks Beijing’s first high-level engagement with the new government in Sri Lanka.
The visit bears significance in the wake of prevalent concern over Colombo’s outstanding debt to China over several largescale infrastructure projects, including the port in the southern town of Hambantota, for which China holds a 99-year lease.
Commenting on the apparent concern, including from India, on Chinese involvement in the region, Mr. Rajapaksa told foreign media last month that countries such as India, Singapore, Japan, Australia, and ASEAN countries could invest in Sri Lanka. “That is how you can counter, just complaining won’t do,” Mr. Rajapaksa had said.
President Rajapaksa is scheduled to visit Beijing next month, following his first state visit abroad to India late November.
In his meeting with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, the President said Sri Lanka is a small country that is strategically located. “As a result, the country has to face many political challenges. The only way to overcome them is to be economically strong. The economic independence will ensure political independence,” his office quoted him as telling the top Chinese official.
Mr. Wang, according to President Rajapaksa’s office, assured him saying: “Sri Lanka may have less landmass, but will soon be strong economically. China will be with Sri Lanka in its striving to reach this goal”.