China pledges $124bn to Silk Road initiative

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In advancing the Belt and Road initiative, Xi also said they would not retread the old path of games between foes but instead create "a new model of cooperation and mutual benefit". Euan Graham, an expert on North Korea at Australia's Lowy Institute, said it seemed to be a self-defeating move by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Few Western heads of government made the trip.

Seeking to portray the initiative as welcoming and inclusive, Xi promised to avoid forming a "small group" of allies, which he said might harm regional stability.

President Xi Jinping will host leaders from 29 nations in Beijing for a two-day forum on his signature foreign policy programme, a revival of the Silk Road dubbed the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

Pandey said the two countries had been in discussions for the past five months about the project, which could cost $7-8 billion and take up to eight years to complete.He said Nepal planned to start preparing a detailed project report for the railway, and that they had yet to decide how much funding they will seek from China.

The initiative spans some 65 countries representing 60 percent of the world population and around a third of global gross domestic product.

Pakistan's government announced it had signed memoranda of understanding on Saturday with China on possible projects worth a total of $500 million.

The project is seen as a practical solution to relieve China's industrial overcapacity. But it could also serve Beijing's geopolitical ambitions. "It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations", he said.

China is one of the countries Britain hopes to sign a free trade agreement with once it leaves the European Union, and London and Beijing have been keen to show that Britain's withdrawal from the bloc will not affect ties.

In a statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the move should "serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea".

Sunday's missile launch "is absolutely an embarrassment to Beijing but it also shouldn't be overstated", Christopher Balding, economics professor at Peking University, told AFP. "We'll see what happens tomorrow", she said in a briefing with the press on the sidelines of the summit.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said India supported greater connectivity across the region and listed the initiatives it was involved in, including highway projects and the North-South corridor in Central Asia, but he said these had to be developed in a transparent manner.

According to the National Development and Reform Commission of China, the country's investment in projects related to the initiative has totaled 60 billion United States dollars since 2013.

Praising Xi's initiative, Putin warned that "protectionism is becoming the norm".

He said the world must promote the multilateral trade system, the establishment of free trade regions, and the facilitation of free trade.

White House adviser Matt Pottinger said the United States welcomed efforts by China to promote infrastructure connectivity as part of its Belt and Road initiative, and US companies could offer top value services.