April 14 (UPI) -- Kazakhstan filed a formal complaint with the Chinese government following the publication of a Chinese article that claimed the Central Asian country was located in historical Chinese territory.
Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said in a statement published to its website on Tuesday the government summoned the top Chinese diplomat to the country to protest the article, Radio Free Europe reported.
According to the statement, Kazakh officials "held talks with the Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, Zhang Xiao, during which the ministry protested the publication of an article on the website sohu.com in China titled 'Why Is Kazakhstan Eager To Get Back to China?'"
The foreign ministry added Zhang was informed the Chinese article "does not correspond to the spirit of the eternal multilateral strategic partnership stressed in the joint statement."
The joint accord, signed in September 2019, had called for closer ties between the two countries.
Kazakhstan and China share a 1,100-mile border. According to The Atlantic, nearly 1.5 million ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals live in Xinjiang, making them the second-biggest Muslim population after Uighurs, the group most affected by Beijing's policies in the far northwest province.
Despite the targeting of Muslims in China, Kazakhstan may have been careful to criticize Beijing. China has wooed Central Asian countries with proposed projects in its Belt and Road infrastructure program, enabling Beijing to influence decision making in places like Kazakhstan.
In 2019, Kazakh authorities arrested Serikzhan Bilash, a Kazakh activist who collected evidence of Muslims in China ensnared in the internment camp system. Bilash was one of the first activists to regularly post video testimonies from people whose relatives had gone missing amid the crackdown in Beijing.
In February, during his visit to Kazakhstan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo credited the country for not repatriating refugees to China.
"These basic, fundamental human rights are important," Pompeo said.