Foreign Minister Wang Yi was due to meet President Hamid Karzai
during his visit, which coincides with preparations by U.S. and
allied troops to draw down their forces after more than 12 years of
fighting Taliban extremists.
China, which shares a short border with Afghanistan in the country's
mountainous northeastern corridor, has become increasingly concerned
about security in its western region of Xinjiang, where it says
Muslim extremists receive help from militants in neighboring
"The peace and stability of this country has an impact on the
security of western China, and more importantly, it affects the
tranquility and development of the entire region," Wang told a news
conference alongside his Afghan counterpart, Zarar Ahmad Osmani.
"We hope to see a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation
in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and China will play a
constructive role to facilitate that...A divided country will have
Wang last visited Kabul in early 2002 when he was vice foreign
minister and reopened China's embassy after the fall of the Islamist
His visit coincides with a time of transition for Afghanistan, ahead
of both the year-end deadline for the pull-out of foreign troops and
an April presidential election.
Eleven candidates, representing different ethnic, tribal and
religious groups, are competing to replace Karzai, who has served
two terms as Afghanistan's elected president. All pledge to end
decades of civil war and insurgent conflict.
China has been stepping up its engagement with other regional
players in recent months in Afghanistan, Beijing-based diplomats
say, mainly out of concern that the NATO-led force's pullout may
spawn instability that could spill into Xinjiang.
"They're taking a lot of initiative," said a Beijing-based diplomat
who follows China's relations with Afghanistan, speaking on
condition of anonymity. "They're worried about what will happen in
Plans by the United States and its allies to keep a small force in
Afghanistan to bolster Afghan forces against the Taliban have run up
against Karzai's refusal to sign an accord authorizing the post-2014
foreign troop presence.
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The Taliban and its Pakistan-based leadership show no signs of
renouncing their guerrilla campaign to regain control of
Afghanistan. Karzai's government has had little success pursuing
peace talks with the Taliban to produce a political solution.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met Karzai on the sidelines of this
month's Sochi Winter Olympics, where Xi pledged help for
reconstruction and urged Kabul to create a "safe environment for
bilateral cooperation," according to Chinese state media.
Xi said China wanted greater cooperation to fight extremism, saying
that "the fate of Afghanistan will be more closely linked with that
of the region after 2014".
Xinjiang, with its large Muslim minority, has risen up China's
domestic security agenda since a vehicle ploughed into tourists on
Beijing's Tiananmen Square last October, killing three people in the
car and two bystanders. Authorities blamed the incident on
extremists from the province.
More than 100 people, including several policemen, have been killed
in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to state media
reports. But foreign experts have doubted the extent of assistance
from overseas militants to extremists in Xinjiang, as alleged by
Wang's visit may also underscore Afghanistan's economic potential,
despite the insecurity that has deterred foreign investment. China
is keen to invest in Afghan resource deposits worth as much as $1
trillion, based on U.S. Pentagon estimates.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Adam Jourdan
in Shanghai; writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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