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China Offers $11.5B in Loans, Credit to Southeast Asia

  • Reuters

(L-R) Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Prime Ministers Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, Li Keqiang of China, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Myanmar's Vice President Sai Mauk Kham pose for pictures during their meeting in Sanya, Hainan province, China, March 23, 2016.

(L-R) Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Prime Ministers Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, Li Keqiang of China, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Myanmar's Vice President Sai Mauk Kham pose for pictures during their meeting in Sanya, Hainan province, China, March 23, 2016.

China will offer $11.5 billion in loans and credit lines to five Southeast Asian countries for infrastructure and other projects, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday.

In 2014, Li offered $20 billion in loans to Southeast Asia, while visiting Myanmar to attend an East Asian summit, an attractive proposition for a region struggling to fund the roads, ports and railways needed for growth.

Li made the new offer, which includes 10 billion yuan ($1.54 billion) in preferential loans and a $10 billion credit line, to the leaders of five countries along the Mekong River.

He was speaking at a summit with leaders from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in the southern Chinese resort town of Sanya on Hainan island.

His comments were carried on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website and by the official Xinhua news agency.

Such offers of financial aid are not unusual at such get-togethers.

He did not give a timeframe for when the funds may be dispersed.

Li added that he would push China's new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its Silk Road fund to also fund projects in the region, and ensure a greater use for China's yuan currency in dealings with the five countries.

"There are six countries on one river. The Lancang-Mekong sub-region is our joint home," Li said, referring to the Chinese name for the upper part of the river which runs through China.

"Over the many years of being neighbors we have become family," he added.

Despite the proffers of friendship and money, China has a strained relationship with two of the countries whose leaders Li met - Vietnam and Myanmar.

Vietnam and China are involved in an increasingly ugly dispute in the South China Sea over competing territorial claims.

In Myanmar, China has been angered by a decision in 2011 by suspending the $3.6 billion, Chinese-invested Myitsone dam project, and is also nervous at the prospect of Myanmar's new government led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

While Beijing had strong ties with the former Burma's military junta, it has also moved to cement relations with Suu Kyi, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last year.

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