Putin, Dozens Of Other Leaders Gather In China For ‘Belt And Road’ Summit

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(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 25, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/dozens-of-world-leaders-arrive-in-china-for-belt-and-road-forum/29902631.html)

Leaders from dozens of countries have begun arriving in Beijing to attend the April 25-27 Belt and Road Forum.

China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road initiative seeks to create new rail, road, port, and energy infrastructure that links China with Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.

The United States and many EU countries have criticized China’s project and its lending for regional infrastructure efforts, warning that it has saddled some developing countries with debts that they cannot afford to repay.

The high-profile meeting brings together dozens of heads of states, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country became the first G7 member to sign up to the initiative.

Putin arrived in Beijing for the summit late on April 25 after talks earlier in the day with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Russia’s Far East port city of Vladivostok.

EU members Germany and France are sending ministers, while the United States has not dispatched any officials from Washington.

“We call upon all countries to ensure that their economic diplomacy initiatives adhere to internationally accepted norms and standards, promote sustainable, inclusive development, and advance good governance and strong economic institutions,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said.

The 37 heads of state that will attend the forum also include Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the initiative in 2013, China has invested $90 billion in projects while Chinese banks have provided at least $200 billion in loans to foreign governments.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters