Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Chinese ambassador meets Aung Sang Suu Kyi

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BEIJING: China said on Thursday that its ambassador to Myanmar had had a rare meeting with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in the highest level contact in two decades between Beijing and Myanmar’s opposition.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin also said China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, would travel to Myanmar for a summit next week of Mekong River countries, weeks after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s landmark visit there.

Liu said that ambassador Li Junhua’s meeting with Nobel Peace Prize laureate was in response to a request from her.

“Madame Aung San Suu Kyi has proposed a number of times her desire for contact with the Chinese side, and the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar’s meeting was in answer to this,” he said, but declined to say when or where the meeting took place. Liu said the ambassador “listened to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ideas.”

China has exchanges with people in Myanmar “from all quarters who support friendship and cooperation between China and Myanmar, on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in domestic affairs,” he added.

Suu Kyi’s chief of staff, Khun Tha Myint, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Suu Kyi has tried to reassure China, who strongly backed the military regime which locked her up, that she does not consider Beijing an enemy, making remarks to that effect almost immediately upon being released from house arrest last year.

“I am glad that both China and Suu Kyi realise the importance of good ties between Myanmar and China,” a retired senior Myanmar diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

China’s then-ambassador Cheng Ruisheng, who served in Myanmar from 1987 to 1991, met Suu Kyi twice and had previously been the most senior Chinese official to have contact with her, according to Chinese media.

“China has always strived to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with Myanmar and supports the Myanmar government’s efforts to advance economic and social development and promote domestic reconciliation,” spokesman Liu added.

Liu did not say exactly when Dai, who outranks the foreign minister, would go to Myanmar nor if he would have any bilateral meetings with government leaders while there.

Sources had told Reuters this week that Chinese premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Mekong River summit next week. . It is not clear why Dai is going instead of Wen.

Beijing has long been Myanmar’s closest partner. But relations have been strained after the former Burma suspended building a Chinese-funded dam in September, and have been further affected by Washington’s tentative moves to re-engage with the once-isolated country.

Clinton met Suu Kyi this month as Myanmar’s new civilian government pledged to forge ahead with political reforms and re-engage with the world community.

Clinton’s trip follows a decision by US President Barack Obama last month to open the door to expanded ties, saying he saw the potential for progress in a country until recently seen as a reclusive military dictatorship firmly aligned with China.

With sanctions blocking Western investments, China has emerged as Myanmar’s biggest ally, investing in infrastructure, hydropower dams and twin oil-and-gas pipelines to help feed southern China’s growing energy needs. (Reuters)

China has also counted on Myanmar as a bulwark against what Beijing sees as US attempts to surround China. That could be threatened now Washington has begun contacts with a Myanmar which is embarking on tentative political liberalisation. Reuters

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