BEIJING, March 21 (UPI) -- China can play a stronger role in regional energy security, though Washington is encouraged by gains in a multilateral natural gas pipeline, a diplomat said.
Robert Blake, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told delegates in Beijing that China could encourage greater integration in the regional energy market.
"One of our highest objectives is to try to increase integration between Central Asia and South Asia," he said in a statement.
Blake noted that energy infrastructure was needed to create strong links between developing countries and major energy producers.
"We've been very encouraged by the progress that has been made on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, for example, which we think can be a very valuable opportunity to increase energy links between these two important regions," he said.
Security of the TAPI route through Afghanistan is an impediment to development, though the Afghan government made several pledges to relieve those concerns. Pakistan, meanwhile, "is facing quite severe energy shortages" and Blake said Washington was committed to helping its allies in Islamabad meet those energy challenges.
"So there's a lot to be done and we think that China can play such an important role in helping to spur this effort at greater integration," said Blake.