China, Laos open $ 6 billion high-speed rail link

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A train is ready at the station during the handover ceremony for the high-speed train project linking the Chinese city of Kunming to Vientiane, in southwestern Laos, on December 3, 2021. REUTERS / Phoonsab Thevongsa

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VIENTIANE, Dec.3 (Reuters) – A $ 6 billion high-speed rail line connecting China to its Southeast Asian neighbor Laos was inaugurated on Friday, a milestone in the ambitious project to Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Laotian counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith attended a virtual ceremony to mark the first trips on the line, which stretches from the city of Kunming in southwest China to the Laotian capital Vientiane .

China, which has a 70% stake in the joint venture project signed in 2015, hopes that the 1,000 km (621.37 mile) line will eventually extend through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.

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Xi said in a video conference between the two leaders on Friday that the countries were at “a historic new starting point.”

“China is willing to strengthen strategic communication with Laos, promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, and continue to build an unwavering China-Laos community with a common future,” he said. he said in comments posted by Chinese state television channel CCTV. .

Economists have warned that the rail project could make it difficult for communist Laos, one of Asia’s poorest countries, to repay foreign debt, largely owed to China.

Laos state-run KPL news agency said on Thursday that the project was part of the government’s strategy to convert Laos “from a landlocked country to a land-linked country.” Read more

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Reporting by Phoonsab Thevongsa and Ella Cao; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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