Venezuelan Minister attacks US during China visit

The US' top dimplomat in Venezuela spoke with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, seen in December 2017, about the detention of a 25-year-old American and asked for him to be freed (AFP Photo/WANG ZHAO) (AFP/File)

Beijing (AFP) - Venezuela's foreign minister blamed the US for his country's spiralling debt crisis on Thursday, saying Washington's "permanent attack" had left the economy crippled.

Jorge Arreaza lashed out at US President Donald Trump, US and European sanctions, and American interference in Venezuela's internal affairs at the Venezuelan embassy in Beijing during a three-day official visit.

"Our country is under permanent attack and aggression from the United States of America," Arreaza said at a press conference where he also heaped fulsome praise on China, one of the country's largest creditors.

"Thank God humanity can count on the People's Republic of China to guarantee peace or at least less conflict," he said.

Venezuela is mired in a political and financial crisis.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has ratcheted up political repression this year as food and basic medical supplies run low and protesters intermittently take to the streets.

Experts say the cash-poor but oil-rich nation owes about $20-$30 billion to China out of a total debt mountain estimated at $150 billion.

Venezuela partially defaulted on its debt last month, striking a repayment agreement with Russia, and Beijing has said it is confident the country can "properly handle" the debt crisis.

However, earlier this month a subsidiary of China's state-owned oil company Sinopec filed a suit in the US against Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA, accusing the firm of failing to pay more than $43 million for steel reinforcement bars.

The two sides have since resolved the issue.

Asked if China and Venezuela had come to an agreement on the larger debt issue, Arreaza said the debt crisis was not the focus of his visit.

China and Venezuela "have always built and designed financial mechanisms in order to exchange investments and cooperation in a just, fair and equal manner," he said.

"Financial questions are always fundamental in order to guarantee our cooperation in other areas," he added.

Arreaza also slammed the Trump administration's first National Security Strategy for its strong criticism of China, Russia and Venezuela.

The 68-page document put out by the White House this week labels China a revisionist power and Venezuela a dictatorship, a conclusion that the foreign minister fiercely disputed.