Pakistan on Friday announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics next week, reinforcing the "all-weather strategic cooperative partnership" between the two countries.
During the visit, Khan will have meetings with the Chinese leadership, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said at the weekly briefing.
“The visit will reinforce the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between our two countries, and further advance the objective of building a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era,” he said.
The foreign office on January 13 had said that Khan will be embarking on a three-day visit to Beijing from February 3 on the invitation of the Chinese leadership.
The Beijing Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympics Winter Games from March 4-13, amid a diplomatic boycott by several Western countries, including the US and the UK, over concerns of China's alleged human rights abuses.
China has launched a diplomatic offensive to mobilise world leaders to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics as the US, the EU and several western countries announced a boycott of the event by their diplomats to highlight the allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the incarceration of over a million Uygur Muslims in camps.
A host of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are due to attend the opening ceremony to show solidarity with Beijing.
China defends the camps, describing them as re-education centres aimed at de-radicalising sections of the Uyghur Muslim population from extremism and separatism campaign carried out by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
During the weekly briefing, Ahmad also sought to dispel the impression of any slowdown in projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by saying that both Beijing and Islamabad are strongly committed to take the infrastructure project forward and make it successful.
The US$60 billion CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China's ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.
The initiative also led to allegations of smaller countries reeling under mounting Chinese debt after Sri Lanka gave its Hambantota port in a debt swap to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease.
FO Spokesperson Ahmad also said the 48th Session of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Islamabad from March 22-23.
He said Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood visited Jeddah from January 22-25, where Pakistan assumed the Chair of OIC's Senior Officials Meeting in the run up to the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Team Taiwan won't be at Winter Games opening ceremony
Taiwan's small team for next month's Winter Olympics in Beijing will not take part in either the opening or closing ceremonies, the government said on Friday, blaming delayed flights, tough anti-COVID-19 rules and an early departure.
Chinese-claimed Taiwan had feared Beijing could "downgrade" Taiwan's status by putting its athletes alongside those from Chinese-run Hong Kong at the opening ceremony, a senior Taiwan official familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.
Sub-tropical Taiwan, which has no winter sporting tradition and has never won a medal at the winter Games, is sending four athletes to Beijing, the same number as the last winter Games in 2018.
The government, which has already said no officials will go, has now decided its athletes will be at neither the opening nor closing ceremonies.
Taiwan's Sports Administration said the 15-member team, including trainers, would be arriving from different parts of the world, including the United States and Switzerland.
"According to the event's pandemic prevention and entry policy, flights have been adjusted and delayed, and not all could arrive in Beijing by the opening ceremony on Feb. 4," it said in a statement.
Athletes will need to get over their jet lag and get used to the venues, the administration added.
"Based on the protection of the athletes, high-standard pandemic prevention and control measures have been adopted to prevent any risk of infection; to accumulate combat strength, our delegation will not participate in the opening ceremony."
Because the team is small, they will not wait around after their events are over and will go home, meaning on the day of the closing ceremony most will already have left, and they will not be there, it said.
The Beijing Games are happening at a time of heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, including repeated Chinese military activity near the island.
Taiwan competes in most sporting events including the Olympics as "Chinese Taipei" at the insistence of Beijing, which sees democratically governed Taiwan as part of "one China".