Sri Lanka’s president held talks Thursday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping amid a push to recalibrate his predecessor’s strongly pro-China policies and a review of major Chinese projects in the island nation.
Maithripala Sirisena and Xi reaffirmed longstanding ties between their countries at the start of their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing. The talks kicked off Sirisena’s first visit to the Asian giant since taking office in January and follow his recent trip to neighbor and Chinese rival India.
In opening remarks, Xi said China considers Sri Lanka a strategic partner and wants to “again promote and elevate the China-Sri Lanka relationship to fulfill an important purpose.”
“China has always placed Sri Lanka in an important diplomatic position in region,” Xi said before reporters were ushered from the room.
The two also discussed a $1.5 billion China-funded port city project in Colombo which Sirisena’s government suspended pending scrutiny of environment impacts and alleged corruption, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told reporters after the meeting. Both sides said they continued to back the project, but any specific changes to it would have to be worked out by the companies involved, Liu said.
Liu said Xi advocated further Chinese investment in Sri Lanka, including projects funded by Beijing’s proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The two presided over the signing of agreements on health care, construction and urban development.