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China debt puts the Maldives at risk of 'land grab,' ex-leader warns

Former president says Male government has opened the door to a takeover

The site of a Chinese-financed project to build a bridge connecting the Maldivian capital of Male with a nearby airport island (Photo by Yuji Kuronuma)

COLOMBO Massive debts could force the Maldives to cede territory to China as early as 2019, according to former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who also warns that a flawed presidential election this year would open the door for a Chinese takeover of the island nation.

"We can't pay the $1.5-2 billion debt to China," Nasheed told the NikkeiAsian Review in an interview in Sri Lanka. He said the Indian Ocean country, known mostly as a tourist destination, takes in less than $100 million a month in government revenue.

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