BEIJING: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to travel to Cuba to shore up relations with one of the world’s few other remaining Communist states, officials said Wednesday, months after US President Barack Obama visited the Caribbean island.
Li will visit Cuba to discuss “how to further deepen bilateral relations and traditional friendship”, said vice minister of foreign affairs Wang Chao.
Li’s visit will be the first by a Chinese premier since the two countries established diplomatic relations 56 years ago, he added, although President Xi Jinping visited the island in 2014.
It comes after Obama’s historic three-day visit to Cuba in March—the first by a sitting US president since 1959.
On Monday, the US and Cuba held talks in Washington on bilateral economic issues for the first time since diplomatic relations were restored between the two in July 2015.
Wang insisted that China did not see their normalizing of relations as a threat.
“We believe that to strengthen economic cooperation with Cuba will not only benefit Cuba’s development, but also benefit Cuba’s cooperation with other countries and the growth of the global economy,” he said, noting that China would benefit from such growth as well.
The distance between China and Cuba was a disadvantage, Wang acknowledged, but said the US rapprochement would not make China any less attractive to Cuba economically.
“We have strong mutual trust between our two countries,” he said.
Before Cuba, Li will pay an official visit to Canada, only two weeks after its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited China and Ottawa announced it would apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Wang gave no specific dates for Li’s visits, saying only that they would follow Li’s trip to New York for the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, which begins this weekend. AFP