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  • A man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China April 18, 2019.

    A man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China April 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 April 2019

The popularly known "New Silk Road" is not a geopolitical tool but an international cooperation platform, Minister Wang Yi said.

China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi announced Friday that North Korea is welcome to participate in the next Belt and Road Initiative summit to be held in Beijing from April 25 to 27.

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"North Korea will send its representatives. ... All countries have the freedom to attend, but I think they don't have the right to prevent any other country from participating," Wang said in reference to pressure from the United States in 2017 to not allow North Korea to participate in a then summit. The Chinese official added he hoped the U.S. would "be more active to participate in this international corporation platform."

The international event will be attended by 36 countries and representatives of organizations, among them, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

The 2019 summit will be attended by presidents or prime ministers of Italy, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Chile, Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, Philippines, Kenya, Pakistan, Egypt, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Mongolia, Vietnam and Thailand. However, the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and Spain will only send representatives.

The Chinese minister said that the New Silk Road iniciative has already joined 126 countries that are interested in "high quality cooperation." This year’s summit will feature a conference organized specifically for the business community to take place April 25.

Wang also affirmed that the Belt and Road iniciative has already brought real benefits to China's partner.

“This partnership relationship is not a geopolitical tool, but a platform for cooperation,” he said, adding that the Chinese proposal is not creating a ‘debt crises’ as “any participating country would recognize.”

With the slogan "Shaping a brighter shared future", the forum proposes to enhance connectivity, explore new economic growth, and promote sustainable development.

President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road in 2013 and its first summit was held in 2017. His purpose is to connect China with Asia, Africa and Europe through multimodal transport  and communication infrastructures.

"China created the initiative but the opportunities are there for everyone," Wang said and hoped the next forum would provide opportunities for participants to "work together, reach consensus and achieve high quality, open, multilateral cooperation oriented to improve people's lives."

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