China says threat of terrorism top concern in meeting of Beijing-led group of Central Asian states

Beijing: China's defence minister said on Tuesday that fighting the threat of terrorism is a top concern to be discussed by a Beijing-led group of Central Asian states at a meeting this week that highlights Chinese ambitions to dominate the Asian security agenda.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Wei Fenghe told fellow defence officials from the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Beijing that the group stood as a force for peace. Foreign ministers from the group were also meeting in Beijing on Tuesday and a heads of state summit is planned for June in the Chinese port of Qingdao.

Their two nations are rivals for Asian leadership and share a disputed and often tense Himalayan border.

The focus on terrorism reflects China's hopes to use the grouping to stamp out threats of cross-border support for low-level separatist insurgencies particularly in the predominantly Turkic-speaking region of Xinjiang.

Along with China and Russia, the SCO includes the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan as well Pakistan and India. Cooperation among member nation defence ministries "has made important contributions to maintain peace in the region and the world," Wei said.

Wei said the meeting would also discuss the South China Sea, where China has rapidly been consolidating its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway through the construction of man-made island military bases.

China has encouraged Central Asian countries to play a bigger role in regional affairs as part of the SCO. Apart from stepping up security cooperation, China has funnelled significant economic investment into Central Asia, a critical hub in President Xi Jinping's Belt-and-Road infrastructure initiative connecting the Eurasian continent. Beijing has also sought a bigger role in Afghanistan's political future, pushing for settlement talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Updated Date: Apr 24, 2018 19:19 PM

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