Sri Lankan PM Gunawardena meets Chinese President Xi Jinping

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured continuous support to Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena for Sri Lanka’s efforts for “political and socio-economic progress” and also said Beijing will stand for safeguarding the island nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. China and Sri Lanka agreed to continue to act under the friendship, peace, mutual respect and fivefold principle in international affairs that do not interfere in the internal affairs of a country during a meeting between Xi and Gunawardena on Wednesday at Great Hall in Beijing, the prime minister’s office said in a statement here on Thursday.

“Chinese President assured continuous support of China to Sri Lanka’s efforts for political and socioeconomic progress. The Chinese President said that China will always stand for safeguarding independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka,” the statement said. “It was emphasised that bilateral relations should be based on mutual respect and mutual productivity between the countries, and acting according to that policy would set a good example for both countries,” it added. President Xi assured that China will support the schemes necessary for the development of Sri Lanka as soon as they are presented.

China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which is characterised by “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support,” to consolidate political mutual trust, enhance exchanges of experience in governance, expand practical cooperation, and advance the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, Xi was quoted as saying in an official press release in Beijing. Earlier on Tuesday, China and Sri Lanka signed nine new agreements as Prime Minister Gunawardena met his counterpart Chinese Premier Li Qing amid Colombo’s efforts to restructure its bankrupt economy but no details about the agreement were made available.

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China is Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral lender owning 52 per cent of the USD 40 billion external debt when Sri Lanka announced its sovereign default in 2022. The Chinese assurance comes days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which concluded its second review of the USD 2.9 billion bailout with Sri Lanka, said reaching an agreement with the country’s commercial creditors, the international bondholders and China Development Bank was the key to achieving debt sustainability. During the high-level bilateral talks, the Chinese Premier praised Sri Lanka’s economic progress after a period of economic downside and said his country would also extend assistance to develop Katunayake International Airport, Hambantota Port and Colombo Port City, news portal NewsFirst.lk said.