Top Burmese delegation in China

The Burmese junta’s fifth-ranking minister, Tin Aung Myint Oo, is in China for the first set of official talks between the two countries since news broke in June about Burma’s nuclear programme.

High on the agenda will also likely be a discussion on Burmese elections this year and stability along the countries’ shared border. It follows a senior-level visit to Burma in early June by Chinese government officials and businessmen which saw the two neighbours sign a raft of new trade deals.

China has remained mute on allegations that Burma is looking to become the world’s newest nuclear power. Analysts have warned that if the intentions are indeed true, it could destabilise the Southeast Asia region, which China now economically dominates.

“I think this is a sign that there are a lot of relationship matters and issues to be solved between China and [Burma]; there are some hiccups,” said Pho Than Chaung, spokesperson for the Burma Communist Party (BCP). Beijing backed the BCP in its fight against the Burmese government in the 1960s and continues to maintain ties with the party, although China has steadily developed a stronger relationship with the ruling junta over the past two decades.

Pho Than Chaung said that there have been “a number of cases” in the past when the two governments have had to “solve issues discreetly”.

“China wouldn’t like Burma’s nuclear [allegations] coming true – China doesn’t want another nuclear nation in its neighbourhood. Maybe [China] is trying to get an answer on this issue.”

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said yesterday that Tin Aung Myint Oo was setting out on a “goodwill” visit to China at the invitation of Li Keqiang, executive vice-premier of China and a powerful figure within the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s de facto top power organ. Included in the delegation was Burma’s deputy minister for defence, Aye Myint, and deputy foreign affairs minister, Maung Myint.

It is the first visit to China by Tin Aung Myint Oo since September last year, when talks were dominated by the eruption of violence along the China-Burma border. The Burmese army had attacked an ethnic Kokang ceasefire group in Burma’s northeastern Shan state, and some 37,000 refugees fled into southern China.

Relations between the two countries temporarily soured, but appear to now be back on track. China is rapidly becoming Burma’s principal economic and political ally, but Beijing has warned Naypyidaw that it is closely watching the security situation along the border.

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