The China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization said the regional security pact is prepared to act in Kazakhstan, fueling concerns China may join Russia in sending troops to the troubled Central Asian nation.
The eight-country SCO, formed by China in 2001, vowed to extend assistance to Kazakhstan “if there is a corresponding request from Kazakhstan‘s relevant body,” the official Russian news agency TASS reported.
The statement implies China could send troops or security forces to Kazakhstan, contrary to Beijing’s oft-stated policy of opposing interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Kazakhstan was a charter member of the 20-year-old alliance.
SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming said in a statement Friday that “maintaining internal stability and social harmony in the republic of Kazakhstan as a member state of the SCO is one of the key factors of peace and security in the region.”
“We count on the earliest possible stabilization of the situation, restoration of law and order and public security in the country, ensuring the rights and interests of all representatives of the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional people of Kazakhstan,” Mr. Zhang said in a statement.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry also said China is prepared to assist the Kazakhstan government of authoritarian leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
“China stands ready to work together with the Kazakh side to implement our heads of state’s important political consensus and do our best to provide necessary support and assistance to Kazakhstan,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
Mr. Wang also suggested the unrest in the country was the result of “some external forces” that oppose stability in the region, a line both Mr. Tokayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin have adopted as well.
“China is ready to work with Kazakhstan to enhance cooperation between law enforcement and security departments, strengthen bilateral cooperation against external interference, uphold the two countries’ political system[s] and political power security, forestall and foil any attempt at instigating ‘color revolution,’ and jointly oppose the interference and infiltration of any external force,” Mr. Wang said.
Protests broke out in Kazakhstan Jan. 2 over price increases for compressed gas in the western part of the country, and escalated into mass riots and attacks on government buildings.
The government reported that 164 people were killed in a government crackdown.
Moscow also dispatched troops at the request of the Kazakh government, under a separate mission by the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military grouping of six former Soviet republics dominated by the Kremlin.