China on Friday said it will respect the collective “will” of the SAARC even though the just concluded Kathmandu summit did not discuss any plans for the expansion of the bloc despite keen interest shown by the Communist giant to join the eight-member body.
“We are ready to lift relations with SAARC and contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the South Asian region on the basis of respecting SAARC nations’ will,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said here while replying to a question on the Kathmandu SAARC summit, which concluded on Thursday.
“The 18th SAARC summit was held successfully. We congratulated them on that,” Hua said, adding China attaches great importance to its relations with SAARC.
Chinese vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who headed the Chinese delegation to the summit, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony and raised measures to further deepen cooperation with SAARC, Hua said.
China also named an envoy to SAARC recently, she added. In his speech at the SAARC summit, Liu said China wants to increase trade between South Asia and China to USD 150 billion from around USD 100 billion at present and invest USD 30 billion in the next five years.
China, which is an Observer of the SAARC along with Australia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the US and the European Union, said ahead of the summit that it would like to elevate its partnership with the regional bloc.