China and Malaysia in 'panda diplomacy'

China will loan two endangered baby pandas to Malaysia for 10 years to commemorate strong diplomatic ties between the two Asian countries, the environment ministry said on Tuesday.

"The Malaysian government will be receiving a pair of pandas following an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association," the Natural Resources and Environment ministry said in a statement.

"This agreement shows Malaysia's commitment towards China's efforts in increasing the number of endangered giant pandas, which is estimated at about 1,600 only," it added.

The New Straits Times newspaper Tuesday said Prime Minister Najib Razak had recently requested for the pandas during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

The pandas will be kept in special enclosures in a wetland park in Putrajaya, just south of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The environment ministry said the presence of the pandas in Malaysia would promote awareness of panda conservation in China.

China is famed for its "panda diplomacy", using the bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries. Just about 1,600 remain in the wild in China, with some 300 others in captivity worldwide -- mostly in China.

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