Friday, March 20, 2009

Chinese military chief visits Burma

by Mungpi
Thursday, 19 March 2009

New Delhi (Mizzima) - China’s Chief of General Staff, General Chen Bingde on Wednesday met Burma’s Senior General Than Shwe during a visit to the Southeast Asian nation, according to Burma’s official newspaper.

The New Light of Myanmar on Thursday reported that Chen Bingde, was in Burma’s capital Naypyitaw at the invitation of General Thura Shwe Mann. He held discussions with Shwe Mann on “matters related to mutual cooperation and strengthening friendship between the two countries.”

While Bingde’s visit to Burma did not evoke surprise, as the two countries have maintained a good relationship, observers said it could be an effort to cement the relationship further between the two countries.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burmese border based military relations analyst, China wants Burma to move forward in business deals including the Yunnan – Arakan gas pipeline project that both countries had agreed on.

He said China is also worried over the situation on its border, where a number of ethnic armed rebels have taken refuge. It would like to see that Burma’s political developments do not have a major impact on its border stability.

“I think China would also like to advise Burma’s ruling generals on their roadmap,” he added.

Burma’s military rulers have recently been meeting several leaders of neighbouring countries including a visit by its Prime Minister Thein Sein to Indonesia and Singapore. Sources in Naypyitaw said, Thein Sein was to explain to the two Asean countries the junta’s planned election and process of the roadmap.

According to Nyo Ohn Myint, foreign affairs in-charge of the National League for Democracy in exile (NLD-LA), the junta is increasingly lobbying with regional countries to support the ensuing election, which is the fifth step of its roadmap.

Without the support of China, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), of which Burma is a member, the junta knows that its roadmap is illegitimate and it cannot move ahead with its plan, Nyo Ohn Myint said.

But China, which has for long backed the junta, is increasingly worried over Burma’s failure to implement its promises on national reconciliation, and that could be Bingde’s agenda for discussion during his visit, he said.

“China wants Burma to conduct an acceptable process that is inclusive and the least that China would like the junta to do is to honour the result of the election,” Nyo Ohn Myint said.

He said it is also likely that the junta will heed the Chinese advice as long as it does not involve a concession to the mainstream opposition led by detained Aung San Suu Kyi.

“So, they will allow as many political parties as they can but they will make sure that the National League for Democracy, is sidelined,” he added.

Meanwhile, the United States, which is a strong critic of the junta and has imposed tight economic sanctions, has indicated that it is reviewing its policy on Burma, admitting that its policy of isolation in the past has failed.

Nyo Ohn Myint said China might also be worried over Washington’s possible change of policy towards Burma. His argument is that as Sino-Burmese relationship were not built on economic relationship or other mutual interests but is built on the junta’s determination to maintain power, the relationship could take a different turn if the Burmese junta finds support from other countries.

“China would not like to lose its influence over Burma, as it has been persistently supporting the junta for the past two decades,” said Nyo Ohn Myint, but added that the Burmese junta, however, might not think in the same way, as they are concerned about maintaining their power and not their relationship with China.

A leaked secret meeting minute of Burmese military leaders in 2008 said, with regional countries seemingly unfriendly Burma is bound to get closer to China for support internationally.

The generals admit that Burma’s interest in maintaining a good relationship with China is for larger protection at the international arena even as China has its strategic interest in the country.

In December 2008, Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), visited Burma at the invitation of Thura Shwe Mann and agreed to increase military as well as state-to-state relations between the two countries.

Source: Mizzima News

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