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International relations

Xi to visit Spain, Portugal and Panama around G-20 trip

Central American country cut ties with Taiwan last year

People wave Panama flags as they wait for a Chinese container vessel to navigate through the newly expanded Panama Canal in Agua Clara, Panama. This will be Xi's first visit to the country, which switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan last year.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Spain and Portugal between late November and early December, around the time of his trip to Argentina for the Group of 20 summit starting Nov. 30, diplomatic sources told Nikkei. Xi is also preparing to visit Panama, which severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established official ties with China last year.

Xi is slated to arrive in Spain on Nov. 28 and attend an event marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Madrid and Beijing. He will meet with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to discuss topics including China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Beijing, facing mounting tensions with the U.S., seeks to build ties with southern European countries where China has a less complicated relationship. Spain and Portugal are seen as less focused on concerns about China's human rights record and treatment of ethnic minorities than other European Union members. And because their economies are smaller than those of Germany and France, Beijing sees economic cooperation as a potentially effective carrot.

Beijing sees Panama -- which occupies a strategically important position in global logistics thanks to the Panama Canal -- as a key link in the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Xi's visit aims to solidify relations between the two countries while also sending a message to Washington, which considers Central America its backyard.

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