Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Sri Lankan leaders pledged here on Sunday to further develop bilateral relations, carrying forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact.
Wang, during his visit, met with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, and attended a ceremony to launch a series of events marking the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Sri Lanka, and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Rubber-Rice Pact.
Wang said at the ceremony that the two countries are always good friends, noting that China has provided a large amount of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies to Sri Lanka.
China and Sri Lanka are also good partners in common development, said the Chinese state councilor, adding that Sri Lanka is on the key route of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in South Asia.
The first phase of the Colombo Port City project has been completed and new programs are being launched, said Wang, citing that the cooperative management of the Port City has brought profits for Sri Lanka, the Hambantota Port's cargo throughput has continued to see new high, and the industrial zone is developed in full swing.
China and Sri Lanka are good brothers supporting each other, Wang said. "Amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and tortuous process of economic recovery, we need to cooperate more closely than ever before."
He said the two sides should further deepen their mutual political trust, firmly support eath other on issues of core interests, significant concerns and national dignity.
"We will continue to jointly fight the pandemic and cooperate in the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines and effective medicines," said Wang.
He said the two sides ought to keep synergizing their development strategies and upholding multilateralism.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, during the meeting with Wang, said Sri Lanka is willing to work with China to hold a series of events marking the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and China and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Rubber-Rice Pact.
Sri Lanka is ready to strengthen cooperation with China in the fields of economy, trade, finance, tourism and infrastructure, so as to benefit the people of the two countries, he stressed.
Wang said the long-standing friendly exchanges between the two countries have shown that they have always adhered to the principle of mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual support.
He said the two countries opened the door for friendly exchanges by signing the Rubber-Rice Pact, demonstrating their national spirit in the fight against hegemony and power politics, and breaking the Cold War isolation imposed by the West.
"The spirit of the pact characterized by independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support is deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples, and such spirit should be carried forward."
Wang said China is ready to offer vaccines and medical supplies to Sri Lanka, and is willing to work together with Sri Lanka on effective medicines, stressing that the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port projects could be engines for pushing forward bilateral cooperation.
He said it is imperative to discuss the restart of talks on free trade agreement between the two countries by tapping the opportunities of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and China's vast market, to facilitate Sri Lanka's economic recovery and development.
Chinese enterprises will be encouraged to invest in Sri Lanka, he said.
The Rubber-Rice Pact was signed in December 1952 when China needed to import rubber and other supplies and Sri Lanka, which sees rubber as a key export, was facing rising price of rice and slump of rubber price.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his meeting with Wang, expressed his gratitude to China for providing COVID-19 vaccines and anti-pandemic supplies, saying China always extends help when Sri Lanka needs it the most.
He hoped to continue deepening bilateral relations and conduct close practical cooperation with China to jointly address challenges.
Wang said the friendly relationship between China and Sri Lanka benefits the development of both countries and serves the fundamental interest of both peoples. It does not target any third party and should not be interfered with by any third party, he said, adding that the all-round cooperation and strategic mutual trust between the two countries contribute to regional peace and stability.
Wang said China is ready to work with Sri Lanka to expand mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and elevate their strategic cooperative partnership to a new height.
He noted that China encourages Chinese enterprises to invest and develop in Sri Lanka, and combine Chinese capital and experience with Sri Lanka's human resources advantages to help Sri Lanka improve the ability of self-development and accelerate industrialization.
The Chinese foreign minister concluded his tour to the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Sunday. Before this, Wang visited the African nations of Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros on Jan. 4-7.