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RELATIONS between Beijing and Caracas are continuing to strengthen, with China sending a medical ship to Venezuela for an eight-day period of friendly visits to the country.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy ship the Peace Ark stopped in the Venezuelan port of La Guaira as part of the 11-nation Mission Harmony tour, which was announced in June.
The ship previously visited Latin America in diplomatic missions in 2011 and 2016, but it is the first time it has docked in Venezuela.
Its arrival at La Guaira follows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent visit to Beijing, where the two countries signed a number of trade agreements and reaffirmed their long-standing friendship.
Venezuela will received $250 million (£190m) from the Chinese Development Bank to help boost oil production and aid the country’s flagging economy, which has been crippled by a series of US and EU sanctions.
Caracas has come under increased pressure from the US, with recent reports suggesting the Trump administration had considered military intervention to topple the Bolivarian government.
Suspicions were raised when the US sent its own hospital ship to Colombia last month, though US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis insisted it was a “humanitarian mission” to provide medical support for Venezuelan refugees.
But Caracas has long pointed to US interference, with Mr Maduro suggesting that neighbouring Colombia could be used as a staging post for a ground invasion to overthrow him.
Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino welcomed the Chinese medical ship.
He said: “This is how you undertake diplomacy in the world … with concrete actions of co-operation and not stoking the false voices of those who beat the drum of war.”
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