BEIJING : Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will travel to China this month, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, marking what will be the leader’s first foreign trip since being sworn in in September after a protracted election stalemate. China had hoped to host an international conference on Afghan’s stability last summer, but was forced to shelve the idea as the Afghan election standoff between Ghani and now chief executive Abdullah Abdullah delayed the inauguration of a new president. China, which is connected to Afghanistan by a narrow, almost impassable mountain corridor, has been quietly preparing for more responsibility in Afghanistan after the bulk of US-led troops pull out.

China says it does not seek to fill a void left by the withdrawal of Western troops but has promised to play a “huge” commercial role in helping rebuild the country.

A major worry for leaders in Beijing is that ethnic Uighur separatist militants from China’s western Xinjiang region will take advantage if Afghanistan again descends into chaos.