BEIJING, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- China and the Maldives are deepening their defense relationship.
Chinese Defense Minister Gen Liang Guanglie, during a visit to the Maldives, had discussions with his Maldivian counterpart, Mohamed Nazim, with both sides indicating their interest in developing further military ties.
The Maldives, an independent archipelago nation off India's western coast in the Arabian Sea, sits along China's Middle Eastern oil shipping routes from the Persian Gulf.
Following his meeting with Nazim, Liang said China and Maldives have enjoyed a "long history" of friendship and the "sound development" of bilateral relations, the Press Trust of India reported.
The discussions represent another element in China's evolving Western strategy to protect is maritime oil imports from the Middle East.
China has long been developing its diplomatic and military relations with the Maldives, providing aid and commercial agreements in addition to consolidating its ties with Sri Lanka off India's southeastern coast, increasing its visibility in waters traditionally regarded as India's "backyard."