November 13, 2017 / 9:00 AM / 10 months ago

China says regional cooperation should not be politicized

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Monday that regional cooperation should neither be politicized nor exclusionary, responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s use of the term “Indo-Pacific” during his trip to Asia.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral meeting alongside the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“Indo-Pacific” has grown in usage across diplomatic and security circles in Australia, India and Japan in recent years, shorthand for a broader and democratic-led region in place of the “Asia-Pacific”, which to some places an authoritarian China too firmly at the center.

Trump and his team have given it fresh currency in recent days, starting during stops in Tokyo and Seoul, building on the rhetoric of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who last month talked of the need to support a “free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific”.

Although Trump was addressing a meeting alongside the APEC summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in the Vietnamese city of Danang on Friday, he repeatedly referred to the Indo-Pacific region and mentioned the importance of India in his speech.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after posing for a family photo during the ASEAN-US 40th Anniversary commemorative Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Manan Vatsyayana/Pool

Asked about China’s view of the Indo-Pacific concept, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that peaceful development and win-win cooperation were the trends of the times.

“All sides can come up with their own plans and positions on how to promote regional cooperation,” Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

“But we hope that plans and positions can accord with and conform to this trend, can suit the general trend of events in the world, and that the relevant plans and positions are open and inclusive, benefiting the promotion of win-win cooperation by all sides, and avoid politicized or exclusionary arrangements.”

China has been busy promoting President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, an extensive infrastructure plan to recreate the ancient Silk Road, linking Asia with the Middle East and Europe, which critics say is more about spreading Chinese influence.

China says it is simply a development project for common prosperity that any country is welcome to join.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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