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Latvia, Estonia, China-backed Eastern European Forum withdraws

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The Associated Press

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Latvia and Estonia said they had pulled out of a China-backed forum aimed at strengthening ties with Eastern European countries.

This move follows China's strengthening of its ties with Russia. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. condemned the economic sanctions imposed.

Weeks before the invasion, Chinese Communist Party President Xi Jinping invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing and declared in a joint statement that bilateral relations "have no limits."

The move also saw Beijing take control of another Baltic state in retaliation for expanding ties with Taiwan's island self-governing democracy, which China claims is its own territory and threatens. It comes after launching economic and diplomatic reprisals against Lithuania. merged by force. China's growing assertiveness and recent threatening military drills near Taiwan have sparked fierce backlash from the United States, the EU, Japan, Australia and others.

"In view of the current priorities of Latvia's foreign and trade policy, Latvia has decided to discontinue its participation in the framework of cooperation between Central and Eastern European countries and China," said the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. said in a statement Thursday.

Countries "stand for mutual interests, international law, respect for human rights, and an international rules-based order," the statement said.

Estonia issued a similar statement, calling for "a

“Estonia has participated in the form of cooperation between Central Europe, Eastern Europe and China since 2012. I have not attended the meeting of the

China has set up a forum to strengthen ties with EU member states, Serbia and others, and has set up President Xi's representatives to build bridges, railways and power plants. One of the objectives is to promote the One Belt, One Road campaign. Other infrastructure across Eurasia.

China initially styled the forum as a "17 plus one" arrangement, but the number of European partners has now been reduced to 14. A campaign to join Russia in undermining the current rules-based international order dominated by the United States and its allies.

Along with its stance on Ukraine, China has come under heavy criticism for launching missiles off the coast of Taiwan and for sending ships and military aircraft in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

Britain summons Chinese ambassador to express concern over "Beijing's increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric in recent months that threaten peace and stability in the region" , quoted Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. as they say. "The UK urges China to resolve its differences through peaceful means without the threat or use of force or coercion," he said.

Beijing's threats against Taiwan are a key factor in the deterioration of US-China relations to their lowest level in decades. China is also involved in a long-running feud with Australia, and last week's missile launch drew criticism from Japan, which is included in its exclusive economic zone, which includes the waters where the projectile landed.

In a separate refusal, South Korea said Wednesday it would make its own decisions about beefing up defenses against the North Korean threat, a move strongly opposed by Beijing.