U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa - Bolton

WASHINGTON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt business practices with little regard for the rule of law, according to prepared remarks on Thursday by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.

The United States' No 1. priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protect the independence of African countries, as well as U.S. national security interests, he said in the prepared remarks.

"Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa," Bolton said.

"They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States."

Bolton's speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jingping, leaders of the world's two largest economies, seek to resolve trade disputes that have roiled global markets and created economic uncertainty.

"China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing's wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption," Bolton said in his remarks.

Bolton had equally harsh words for Russia.

"Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance," he said.

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations, "votes that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people."

China's development policies in Africa have been a concern for Washington as the United States seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of Chinas global ambitions.

The head of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) said in July that China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable.

In October Trump signed legislation overhauling the way the federal government lends money for foreign development, creating a $60 billion agency intended largely to respond to Chinas growing influence. The new the U.S. International Development Finance Corp combines OPIC and other government development organizations.

Xi's "Belt and Road" initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. (Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)