Washington: China rebuffed an American offer to open a major supply route on its soil for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, diplomatic cables unveiled by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks have revealed.
According to a February 2009 cable, the US State Department had directed its Embassy in Beijing to make a formal proposal to China’s Foreign Ministry to permit the overland transit of supplies to US and NATO troops, The Washington Post reports.
The supply route would have followed railroads in China before crossing into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, said the February 10, 2009 document, signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The move by Washington to seek help from China was aimed to reduce its dependence on Pakistan.
A cable sent in response three days later by the US Embassy in Beijing reported that China’s Foreign Ministry had agreed to consider the idea, but remained noncommittal.
The cable noted that China had “expressed interest in cooperating with the US for delivery of non-lethal aid to Afghanistan” as far back as 2006.
Deng Hongbo, deputy director of the ministry’s Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, “welcomed the proposal and promised the Chinese side would study the idea and respond as soon as possible,” the cable stated.
China kept mum about the overture for months. Then in June 2009, a Chinese official raised Washington’s hopes during a meeting with Richard E. Hoagland, the US Ambassador to Kazakhstan, saying that the Chinese government was “actively researching” the US supply route proposal, according to another US cable.
But the official also said that China’s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry were divided on the subject, and that it would be hard for some officials to swallow the idea of giving active support to a NATO military operation.
“My own personal opinion is that we will do the right thing and cooperate with NATO and the US government,” the official was quoted as telling Hoagland.
However, Pentagon’s offer was rejected several months later as China suspended military relations with the US in January 2010 in protest against its six-billion-dollar weapons deal with Taiwan.