The United States and China unleashed a war of words Friday (Mar 15) over Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after the United Nation Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the council’s political mission in Afghanistan for another six months, reported The Washington Post.
The 2018 resolution extended the council’s mission for a year aimed at strengthening regional economic cooperation involving Afghanistan, including the BRI to connect China to Europe, and Africa. The 2016 and 2017 resolutions had similar BRI language.
Council diplomats said China wanted to embed BRI language into the 2019 resolution, but the U.S. strongly objected.
U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen said that “China held the resolution hostage and insisted on making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”
Cohen said the U.S. rejected China’s demand “that the resolution highlights its belt and road initiative, despite its tenuous ties to Afghanistan and known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”
China’s deputy ambassador Wu Haitao shot back at the U.S., informing the council that Cohen’s comments were “at variance with the facts and are fraught with prejudice.”
“This is an initiative of economic cooperation aimed at achieving common development and prosperity. It has nothing to do with geopolitics,” said Haitao.
Haitao told the council since the BRI was launched in 2013, 123 countries and 29 international organizations have signed agreements of cooperation with China on infrastructure development programs.
The sharp exchange came as Washington and Beijing have canceled a trade summit between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping to end the trade war. The proposed meeting to sign a trade agreement has been pushed out to June, a move that shows the trade war is deepening.
Now that the U.S. demands all communication about the BRI be removed from future resolutions. This follows sharp criticism late last year when Vice President Mike Pence said the BRI left countries drowning in debt.
The Trump administration continues to bash the BRI, but the trade scheme continues to draw massive support from around the world. Expected later this week, Italy will sign a memorandum of understanding to join the BRI officially, a move that has deeply annoyed Washington.