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Sri Lanka leader hopes for Japan-led talks with creditors: report

A Sri Lankan port worker holds a Chinese national flag to welcome Chinese research ship Yuan Wang 5 as it arrives in Hambantota International Port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, on Aug. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

NEW DELHI (Kyodo) -- Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe signaled Thursday that the debt-strapped South Asian island nation hopes Japan will lead its talks with major creditor nations, including China and India, for bilateral debt restructuring, according to Reuters news agency.

    "Someone needs to call in, invite the main creditor nations. We will ask Japan to do it," the president was quoted as saying in an interview, adding that he would visit Japan in September and hold talks with his counterpart, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

    Amid the worst economic crisis since the island country of 22 million gained independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka has been in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a potential bailout package.

    It is also consulting with creditor nations for debt restructuring. But China, which has provided massive loans to Sri Lanka for infrastructure development, has been cautious about reducing the Indian Ocean nation's debt.

    Complicating the matter is an intensifying rivalry between India and China over which should wield greater power over Sri Lanka, in addition to their long-standing territorial dispute.

    Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, succeeded Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president last month. Rajapaksa fled the country and stepped down by email after demonstrators, furious about skyrocketing inflation and shortages of essentials such as fuel and medicine, stormed his official residence and key government buildings.

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