China wants to build houses and roads in Sri Lanka's north, much of which is in a state of disrepair nearly a decade after the end of civil war, Chinese and Sri Lankan officials said, in a bid to expand it influence beyond the island's south.
China's latest push in the Indian Ocean island nation comes despite criticism that a big Chinese port project and related infrastructure in the south are dragging the country of 21 million people deep into debt.
Luo Chong, chief of the political section at China's embassy in Colombo, said China wanted to help with reconstruction in Sri Lanka's north and east, the centre of a 26-year war between the government and ethnic minority Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.
"Since the situation is different now, we are willing to have more projects in remote areas in the north and east with the support of the Sri Lankan government and from the Tamil communities," he told Reuters.
India has longstanding ties with Sri Lanka, located just off the tip of southern India, bound by cultural and ethnic links with Sri Lanka's Tamils, many of whom live in the island's north and east.
But in recent years China has swept in, building ports, power plants and highways in the island that sits near busy international shipping lanes and is seen as part of China's String of Pearls strategy of building a network of friendly ports across Asia.