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China's Xi says Silk Road plan boosts finance, security ties

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, walk prior to the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Sunday.

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AP, Beijing :
President Xi Jinping called Sunday for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as leaders from 29 countries gathered to promote a Chinese trade initiative that could increase Beijing's global influence.
The Belt and Road Initiative calls for building ports, railways and other facilities in a vast arc of 65 countries. Other countries welcome the investment but governments including the United States, Russia and India have expressed unease Beijing also might be using the effort to increase its political stature.
Speaking before an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi said his government has "no desire to impose our will on others." But he called for "economic integration" and cooperation on financial regulation, anti-terrorism and security - fields in which China's heft as the world's No. 2 economy would make it a dominant player.
"We should foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security," said Xi. He called for stepped-up action against terrorism and what he called its root causes of poverty and social injustice. In a reminder of potential security threats, North Korea test-fired Sunday what could be a new type of missile in a direct challenge to the new South Korean president.
The "Belt and Road" is Xi's signature foreign policy initiative. The two-day meeting gives him a platform to promote his image as a global leader and free trade advocate in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has called for import restrictions. China is hardly the first government to promote regional trade links. Japan has given billions of dollars in grants and low-cost loans to Southeast Asian nations, and governments including South Korea have launched trade initiatives. But Beijing's effort is the most ambitious and is backed by China's financial muscle and status as the biggest global trader.
Chinese officials have said previously "Belt and Road" is purely commercial, though Xi's comments indicated Beijing sees that as including a broad array of regulatory and other coordination with potentially far-reaching consequences.
Some diplomats and political analysts say Beijing is trying to create a political and economic network centered on China, push the United States out of the region and rewrite rules on trade and security. The United States and Japan, which Beijing sees as rivals for influence in Asia, are not part of "Belt and Road."
China and Russia already are partners, along with Central Asian governments, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group widely seen as an effort to counter U.S. influence in the region.

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