China-US face-off over Taiwan puts Khadka’s visit to north in limboOfficials say they are closely watching the developments and yet to decide on Beijing’s RSVP invitation.
After two back-to-back visits from China in March and July—by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Liu Jianchao, head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party—Beijing extended an invitation to Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka for a China visit.
According to officials, the invitation sent on July 29 looked for an early August date for Khadka’s visit, suggesting August 10.
Sewa Lamsal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the invitation for Foreign Minister Khadka, adding that they are looking into it.
It, now, however, has become uncertain following new tensions between Beijing and Washington in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on Tuesday.
Since the situation is still unpredictable, officials told the Post that they cannot confirm if Khadka will make a trip to the north on the proposed date.
If the visit takes place next week without the situation cooling down, it might be interpreted as Nepal’s support to Beijing's position on the ongoing face-off between China and the US, according to multiple officials. They said they are weighing possible diplomatic and political ramifications in the event of the visit amid rising tensions between two major powers.
There has not been any high-level official visit from Nepal to China since the formation of the current Sher Bahadur Deuba government in July last year.
The July 29 embassy letter, which has been seen by the Post, says: “The Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Nepal presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of Nepal and has the honour to inform that Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China would like to invite Narayan Khadka, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal to visit China in early August 2022.”
The embassy also attached the agenda and schedule of the visit. As per the schedule provided by the Chinese embassy, the Chinese side plans to welcome Khadka in Qingdao, Shandong Province of China on August 10. On the same evening, a meeting with a small group has been scheduled followed by a large group meeting before concluding the formal function with a banquet hosted by the Chinese side. As per the plan, the Nepali delegation will return to Kathmandu on August 11.
Besides multilateral forums, Chinese politicians and officials usually do not meet senior visiting dignitaries outside Beijing during the bilateral visits. Since China has been adopting zero-Covid policy, this time the visit has been planned outside Beijing, said officials.
According to officials, preparations were on track until the recent US-China tensions flared up.
Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island, which China claims to be its own, has left Beijing fuming. China reacted sharply calling the visit despite its strong opposition and serious representations, a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués.
“It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement. “China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the United States.”
“There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China,” it added.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, put out an exactly same statement on Wednesday, with the addition to explain how China appreciates Nepal’s commitment to one-China policy. “It is also the political foundation of China-Nepal relations,” she said. “The two countries have always understood and supported each other on issues of core interests concerning respective sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”
“We believe that the government of Nepal and its people will continue to abide by the one-China principle and understand and support China’s legitimate and justified position and work together with China to defend each other’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” she added.
Nepali officials say as Pelosi's visit has become a fresh flashpoint amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing that have exchanged sharp rhetoric in recent years, they are considering whether the foreign minister should travel to the north.
Lately, both Beijing and Washington have renewed their push to increase their engagements with Kathmandu. Recently, China warned the US against “coercive diplomacy” in Nepal over the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, a $500 million American grant.
Pelosi has already departed from Taipei, but China-Taiwan tensions have continued with Beijing firing missiles into the waters around the island. Chinese state media reported that several ballistic missiles were fired into waters to the east of Taiwan on Thursday. Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command, according to the state media, said that rocket forces in multiple locations on the mainland launched several types of missiles carrying conventional warheads to designated waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan.
Some observers view the Chinese ambassador’s statement as Beijing’s intent, albeit obliquely, to shore up Kathmandu’s position on the Taiwan issue as per Nepal’s commitment to one-China policy.
Foreign Ministry officials say they are closely following what position other regional and neighoburing countries are going to make on the developments in the Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu in the invitation letter also has sought confirmation of the visit.
“It would be highly appreciated if the esteemed ministry could confirm the above mentioned agenda [trip to Qingdao, Shan Dong Province of China] and provide the name list of the delegation [including the name, title and passport numbers], name list of participants in various activities and the information of the flight as soon as possible,” said the letter sent by the embassy.
Lamsal, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that there is a standing invitation from China for the Foreign Minister’s visit and they are still working on it.
“Due to the evolving situation, we have not confirmed the visit,” Lamsal told the Post. “There’s nothing to share at this point of time, including whether the visit will take place or not.”