Min Aung Hlaing and Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang meet in Nay Pyi Taw on May 2. (AFP)

China foreign minister meets Min Aung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw, vows support


China’s foreign minister met Myanmar’s junta chief in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday, officials said, the highest-ranking Chinese official to meet the country’s top general since a coup more than two years ago.

Myanmar has been riven by violence since the putsch that ousted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021.

China is a major ally and arms supplier of the internationally isolated junta and has refused to condemn the military takeover.

China “stands with Myanmar on the international stage”, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, according to a Burmese-language statement from the junta’s information team.

“China advocates that the international community should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and play a constructive role in helping it achieving peace and reconciliation,” Qin said, according to a later statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

Qin will remain in the country until Thursday, according to the junta.

His predecessor, Wang Yi, visited Myanmar in July last year, meeting with his counterpart but not the junta chief.

Myanmar state media footage showed Qin being received by Min Aung Hlaing in a meeting hall decked with gold curtains and red wallpaper.

The two discussed “diplomatic relations, friendly cooperation, the recent situation in Myanmar, border trade, investments and cooperation on energy and electricity”, the junta statement said.

Qin said Beijing will continue to support Myanmar’s “development, accelerate key cooperation projects in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and carry out projects on agriculture, education and health care,” according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

Qin also met Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister and its minister for international cooperation, both statements noted.

Several Beijing-backed infrastructure projects are slated to run through northern Myanmar and link China’s landlocked Yunnan province with the Indian Ocean.

Border visit

Beijing also backs and arms several ethnic rebel groups along its border with Myanmar, analysts say.

Some of these groups have clashed repeatedly with the Myanmar military in the aftermath of the coup, and an alliance of China-backed rebels in March called for Beijing’s help to defuse the crisis.

On Tuesday, Qin visited the China-Myanmar border, calling for “friendship and cooperation” between the two countries.

China has maintained ties with the junta that has been shunned by many western countries over its bloody crackdown on opposition to its rule. 

Last year, Beijing said it would help safeguard Myanmar’s sovereignty “no matter how the situation changes”.

China appointed a special envoy to Myanmar, Deng Xijun, in December, who has met the junta leader at least twice since then, as well as ethnic rebel leaders.

Beijing’s diplomats are also mediating between Myanmar and Bangladesh for a pilot programme to repatriate Rohingya refugees who fled a 2017 military crackdown now subject to a UN genocide investigation.

In the meeting, Qin reiterated that China backs Myanmar boosting ties with Bangladesh and said Beijing is willing to work with the two countries to expand trilateral cooperation. 

After his Myanmar visit, Qin will travel to India for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Chinese foreign ministry said without providing details on his itinerary.

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