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"Won't Allow Outside Influences In Sri Lanka's Internal Concerns": China

Wang Yi said China would be Sri Lanka's longtime partner in prosperity and growth (File Photo)

Colombo:

China would always respect Sri Lanka's sovereignty and not allow any "outside interference" in its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday as he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Wang Yi met the two leaders separately with both sides pledging to further promote relations between the two countries.

"As Sri Lanka's strategic partner, China will continue to stand by Sri Lanka's interests," the visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister was quoted as saying by Gotabaya's office.

"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," Wang Yi said.

The president told Wang Yi that Sri Lanka was facing many political challenges and the only way to overcome them is to be economically strong.

"The economic independence will ensure political independence," Gotabaya said.

The president said Sri Lanka is ready to enhance Sri Lanka-China ties, strengthen bilateral win-win cooperation in various fields and actively promote the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative to build regional shipping and logistic hubs, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported from Colombo.

The Sri Lankan government fully supports the development of major projects such as the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, Mahinda said, noting that these projects will not only help develop the country's economy and improve people's livelihood, but also become a major driving force for the friendly cooperation between the two countries, it said.

In his response, Wang Yi said China, as in the past, would be Sri Lanka's longtime partner in prosperity and growth.

He noted that China's policy towards Colombo had always been consistent and would continue to be Sri Lanka's reliable friend.

"China and Sri Lanka are strategic cooperative partners with sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship built upon a long tradition of friendly exchanges. Recent years has seen fruitful cooperation under the Belt and Road framework.

"China stands ready to work with Sri Lanka's new administration to carry forward the traditional friendship, strengthen political mutual trust, dovetail development strategies and bring bilateral relations to new heights," Wang Yi added.

President Gotabaya's postponed first visit to China will take place in February, his office said after the meeting.

In December 2017, Sri Lanka handed over the control of the southern sea port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, triggering concern over Beijing's efforts to expand influence in the region.