After Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley met for the first time on the sidelines of the U.N. Rio+20 Conference in Brazil on June 21, Beijing announced that the two leaders had expressed their willingness to establish diplomatic relations between the neighboring countries. But Thimphu promptly disputed the report, saying Thinley and Wen had only discussed bilateral issues and multilateral cooperation, not diplomatic ties.
The statement by China’s Foreign Ministry concerning the meeting reveals Beijing’s desperation to establish formal ties with the Kingdom of Bhutan, a tiny nation of about 700,000 people tucked between China and its Asian rival India in the Himalayas.
“China is willing . . . to establish formal relations with Bhutan, resolve the border issue between the two nations at an early date, strengthen exchanges in all areas and advance Sino-Bhutanese relations to a new stage,” AFP quoted Wen as saying in the statement. The Chinese statement quoted Thinley as saying, “[Bhutan] is willing to establish formal diplomatic relations with China at an early date . . . Bhutan resolutely pursues the ‘one China’ policy and has the strong desire to strengthen understanding and friendship with China.”