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Lankan PM to visit China this week

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

Seeking to mend ties, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will undertake a crucial visit to China this week amid controversies over Chinese investments in Sri Lanka, including the ambitious USD 1.5 billion Port City project agreed during the former Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.

Wickremesinghe will leave for China on Wednesday on a three-day official visit, his first to the Communist nation since assuming office in August last year.

He will call on China's President Xi Jinping, and meet his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in a bid to strengthen bilateral relations, Sirisena's office said today.

The visit is expected to lead to economic assistance from China, officials said.

China-Lanka ties were on an upswing during President Rajapaksa's tenure when Beijing committed about USD 7 billion for a host of projects in the island nation, including the Hambantota port and the Colombo Port City projects.

But the ties hit a low after President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January last year and suspended the USD 1.5 billion port city project, the biggest Chinese investment in the country, over allegations of corruption, and concerns over the project's impact on the environment.

The port city is to be built on reclaimed land in front of Colombo's Galle Face green - an ocean-side urban park.

The Lankan government, however, has finally cleared the project after amending the agreement reached during Rajapaksa regime, specially the clause relating to the ownership of the land by Chinese firms.

The clearance for the project came after Sirisena visited China last year. Before China, he visited India.

Chinese President Xi visited Sri Lanka in 2014 during the tenure of Rajapaksa when he inaugurated the port city project.

Sirisena government has accused Rajapaksa of borrowings at high interest rates from China for infrastructure projects.

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First Published: Sun, April 03 2016. 15:48 IST