China opens embassy in Maldives ahead of key summit

GAN, November 8, 2011 (AFP) – China opened a full diplomatic mission in the Maldives Tuesday, two days ahead of a key South Asian summit in the Indian Ocean archipelago, an official said. Beijing established the embassy in the capital Male as seven South Asian leaders were due in the Maldives for their 17th summit in the southern city of Addu, a former secret base of the British Royal Navy during World War II.

“They (the Chinese) wanted to open the embassy before the summit,” Maldivian Foreign Secretary Ahmed Naseer told AFP.

Another official said the opening of the Chinese mission was a reciprocal move after Male opened an embassy in Beijing in 2007. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese authorities in the Maldives.

India has a large mission in the Maldives and its South Asian neighbours also maintain a presence in the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

China’s embassy opening coincided with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

Officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka began meeting in Gan Tuesday to prepare for the two-day summit starting Thursday.

US Assistant Sec