China welcomes all countries to a forum this weekend on it's new Silk Road plan, the foreign ministry said on Saturday, disregarding the United States' warning that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) attendance could affect other countries' participation.
Two sources with knowledge of the situation, said the U.S. embassy in Beijing had submitted a diplomatic note to China's foreign ministry. Reportedly, the note stated that inviting the DPRK sent the “wrong message” at a time when the world is considering implementing sanctions – with U.S. President Donald Trump helming the call for aggressive gestures for their repeated missile and nuclear tests.
The disagreement over DPRK likely won't overshadow China's most important diplomatic event of the year, an initiative President Xi Jinping described as the “project of the century.”
Asked about the U.S. note, China's foreign ministry said in a short statement that it did "not understand the situation".
"The Belt and Road initiative (the new Silk Road plan) is an open and inclusive one. We welcome all countries' delegations to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation," it said.
Despite annoyance at the DPRK's ongoing nuclear and missile tests, China remains its most important economic and diplomatic backer.
In contrast to the U.S.'s loud declarations that “all options are on the table” – a Washington cliché meant to convey that it will find a solution to the crisis by force – China has proposed a “double suspension” of military activities in the region, which aims to force Pyongyang to suspend missile and nuclear tests while requiring the U.S. to suspend its military drills.
Leaders from 29 countries, as well as representatives from the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, are expected to be in attendance today and tomorrow. The event is meant to promote Xi's vision of expanding links across the Eurasian landmass, underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.
In his opening remarks at the forum, Xi pledged an astounding US$124 billion to the new Silk Road plan, reinforcing that everyone was welcome to join what he envisioned would be a path to peace and prosperity for the world. "We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy," he told the opening of a summit. "We should jointly create an environment that will facilitate opening up and development; establish a fair, equitable and transparent system of international trade and investment rules," he added.
Xi pledged a massive funding boost to the plan, including:
- an extra 100 billion yuan ($14.50 billion) into the existing Silk Road Fund
- 250 billion yuan in loans from China Development Bank
- 130 billion yuan in loans from Export-Import Bank of China
- 60 billion yuan in aid to developing countries and international institutions in new Silk Road countries
- encouraging financial institutions to expand their overseas yuan fund businesses to the tune of 300 billion yuan
- 2 billion yuan in emergency food aid
- $1 billion to a South–South Cooperation fund
- $1 billion for cooperation projects in countries on the new Silk Road
Other delegates will also hold a series of sessions today to discuss the plan in more detail.
Western diplomats have looked askance at the summit and the plan as a whole, seeing it as an attempt to promote Chinese influence while eroding their own fading hegemony.
China has rejected criticism of the plan and the summit, saying the scheme is inclusive to all and is a win-win, aimed only at promoting common prosperity and cultural-economic cooperation.
Zhang Junkuo, deputy director general of cabinet think-tank the State Council Development Research Centre, earlier told reporters there were "misgivings, misinterpretations and misunderstandings" about the initiative. "We must increase communication and exchanges so as to broaden our areas of cooperation and consolidate the basis for cooperation," Zhang added.
In an English-language commentary yesterday, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the new Silk Road would be a boon for developing countries that had been largely neglected by the West; heeding their differing needs. "As some Western countries move backwards by erecting 'walls', China is contriving to build bridges, both literal and metaphorical. These bridges are China's important offering to the world, and a key route to improving global governance," it said.