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Xi says Silk Road plan boosts finance, security ties

BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called Sunday for closer cooperation among countries across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as officials from dozens of governments met to promote a Beijing-led initiative to expand trade links across the region.

Speaking to an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of 29 other countries, Xi outlined the most ambitious political vision yet for the "Belt and Road Initiative," a multibillion-dollar project to build ports, railways and other facilities. It covers an arc of 65 countries reaching from the South Pacific through South and Central Asia to Europe and Africa.

The initiative would provide some of the US$7 trillion of investment in infrastructure the Asian Development Bank says the region needs this decade. But governments including Russia, the United States and India are uneasy that China is using its status as the second-largest global economy to expand its political influence.

Xi insisted his government has "no desire to impose our will on others." But he also called for economic integration and cooperation on financial regulation, anti-terrorism and security - all fields in which China's economic heft would give it a prominent voice.

"We should foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and create a security environment built and shared by all," 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 the potential security threats facing the region, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile Sunday that flew for a half-hour and reached an unusually high altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles). The launch was seen as a challenge to a new South Korean president who was elected last week and came as U.S., Japanese and European naval forces gathered for war games in the Pacific.

The "Belt and Road" is Xi's signature foreign policy initiative. The two-day meeting that started Sunday gives him a platform to promote his image as a global leader and an advocate of free trade in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has called for import restrictions.

Xi said Beijing will contribute an additional 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund set up in 2014 to finance infrastructure projects. He said his government will provide aid worth 60 billion yuan (US$8.7 billion) to developing countries and international organizations.

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