United States says it supports China's infrastructure connectivity plan

Matt Pottinger, Special Assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for East Asia, arrives for the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, Sunday, May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States welcomed efforts by China to promote infrastructure connectivity as part of its Belt and Road initiative and U.S. companies can offer top value services, White House adviser Matt Pottinger said on Sunday.

China launched its biggest diplomatic event of the year on Sunday, focused on President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign and economic policy espousing billions of dollars of infrastructure investment linking Asia, Europe and Africa.

“The United States recognizes the importance of improving economic connectivity through high-quality infrastructure development, and hence, welcomes efforts from all countries, including China, in achieving this,” Pottinger said, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Representatives of numerous countries are attending the forum, including North Korea, which the United States has objected to.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said the United States sent a diplomatic note to China on Friday warning that North Korea’s attendance sent the wrong message at a time when the world was trying to pressure it over its repeated missile and nuclear tests. North Korea tested another missile on Sunday.

The U.S. embassy did not mention that in its statement on Sunday, but cited Pottinger as saying American firms were ready to participate in Belt and Road projects.

“U.S. firms can offer the best-value goods and services required over the life of a project,” he said.

The embassy and U.S. companies will set up an American Belt and Road Working Group to engage with the initiative, he said.

Despite espousing extensive infrastructure investment across Asia, Europe and beyond, China’s initiative has struggled to generate much traction from major Western economies despite an aggressive diplomatic effort and promotion.

Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong; Editing by Robert Birsel