May 5, 2017 / 2:56 AM / 5 months ago

China stresses security needed for new Silk Road initiative

A map illustrating China's silk road economic belt and the 21st century maritime silk road, or the so-called "One Belt, One Road" megaproject, is displayed at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s initiative to generate economic prosperity by building a new Silk Road will depend on the countries involved ensuring strong security, its top policemen said, ahead of a summit to discuss a project President Xi Jinping has championed.

Leaders from 28 countries will gather in Beijing on May 14-15 for talks on what China formally calls the “One Road, One Belt” plan that envisions expanding trade and energy links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

Speaking at a security conference on the Silk Road, domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu the plan could only advance if there was a secure and stable environment, the Public Security Ministry said late on Thursday.

“Increasing international cooperation, jointly dealing with risks and challenges and protecting the security of One Road, One Belt is the joint responsibility of all countries,” the ministry paraphrased Meng as telling the meeting.

Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun said there should be more pragmatic cooperation in such areas as public security, anti-terrorism, and protecting overseas interests.

“We hope that all sides would foster the concept of common and cooperative security, and establish a sound security cooperation mechanism for the Belt and Road Initiative,” Guo said, using another name for the new Silk Road.

The ministry did not say which countries attended the forum, but a picture of the event on its website showed the flags of countries including Pakistan, Russia, Vietnam, Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Belarus.

The ministry added that Chen Wenqing, appointed last year as the chief of the secretive and powerful Ministry of State Security, also attended the forum.

China does have legitimate security concerns for many of the countries involved in the new Silk Road, especially in Pakistan where militants have attacked Chinese workers.

China has repeatedly rebuffed concerns the plan is part of a grand strategy to selfishly expand economic interests and seek global dominance, saying that while it is a Chinese-led project, anyone can join to boost common prosperity.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday it was not true that the project was “controlled” by China or that China wanted to “put on a one-man show”, pointing out delegates from 110 countries were coming to the summit.

“If One Road, One Belt really is controlled by China, and if everyone really has no way to jointly enjoy its rewards, I think they wouldn’t be rushing in to participate,” he told reporters.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel

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