Xi Jinping Meets Sirisena: Works To Mend Sri Lanka Ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping worked to mend relations with Sri Lanka on Thursday as state-run media warned the island nation's new government against shutting off billions in investments from Beijing, AFP reported.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena arrived in Beijing on his first state visit to Beijing since taking office in January and is working to renegotiate more than US$5.3 billion (S$7.3 billion) worth of Chinese deals signed by his predecessor.

Sri Lanka recently suspended construction work on a major Chinese-funded "port city" commissioned by his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, who relied heavily on China to rebuild the country's infrastructure during his decade in power, raising concerns in India.

"We will continue to make efforts toward building the relationship towards a new era in the traditional friendship between China and Sri Lanka," Xi said during a meeting with Sirisena. "Mr President, you are an old friend of the Chinese people."

China wants to "deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation in all spheres, push forward genuinely helping each other in our strategic partnership", Xi added at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Sirisena's comments were not translated to the audience, AFP said.

Sri Lanka has complained that it is paying too much interest on the Chinese loans funding its infrastructure development.

China has said any disruptions to the Colombo Port City will spook foreign investors and an op-ed in the Global Times, a paper affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, reminded Sirisena that "Sri Lanka needs foreign investment more than ever".

"A consistent policy is crucial for attracting foreign investment," wrote Lan Jianxue. "Sri Lanka's strategic goals will be better guaranteed if Colombo can integrate them with China-backed projects."

Sirisena has also ordered a review of other Beijing-financed projects and loans amid allegations of corruption.

Sirisena made India - rather than China - his first foreign trip after winning elections in January, seeking to rebuild ties with Delhi.
(With inputs from AFP and Global Times)

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