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China's Top Diplomat Visits Myanmar    07/03 08:38

   

   BANGKOK (AP) -- China's top diplomat on Saturday arrived on his first visit 
to Myanmar since the military seized power last year to attend a regional 
meeting that the government said was a recognition of its legitimacy and 
opponents protested as a violation of peace efforts.

   Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will join counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, 
Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation 
group in the central city of Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

   The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries of the 
Mekong Delta, a potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing 
number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising 
concerns of ecological damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch 
of the Mekong, the part it calls the Langcang.

   Military government spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told a news conference 
in the capital Naypyitaw on Friday that the attendance of the foreign ministers 
at the meeting was a recognition of Myanmar's sovereignty and its government.

   He said the ministers will sign memorandums of understanding and contracts. 
He did not elaborate.

   It's unclear whether Wang would meet Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head 
of the military government.

   Myanmar's military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu 
Kyi on Feb. 1, 2021. It was quickly met by nonviolent nationwide demonstrations 
and triggered armed resistance that some U.N. experts now characterize as civil 
war.

   According to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for 
Political Prisoners, 2,053 civilians have died in the crackdown on the 
resistance movement.

   Wang last visited Myanmar to meet with Suu Kyi just three weeks before the 
military ousted her.

   China is Myanmar's biggest trading partner and an old ally. Beijing has 
invested billions of dollars in Myanmar's mines, oil and gas pipelines and 
other infrastructure and is its major arms supplier, together like Russia.

   Many in Myanmar suspect China of supporting the military takeover, and 
Beijing has refused to condemn the army's power grab. China says it follows a 
policy of non-interference in other countries' affairs.

   The foreign minister of Myanmar's shadow government, which opposes the 
ruling military council, protested the Bagan meeting, saying any such efforts 
in partnership with Myanmar's military violate the will of the people and 
undermine community building.

   The statement said that holding the foreign ministers' meeting in Myanmar is 
in direct opposition to a peace plan by the Association of Southeast Asian 
Nations.

   Myanmar, although a member of ASEAN, has done little to implement the plan 
and its stonewalling led fellow ASEAN members to block government leaders from 
attending major ASEAN meetings.

   Since the military seized power, Chinese special envoy Sun Guoxiang has 
visited Myanmar twice, and Wang has met his Myanmar counterpart, Wunna Maung 
Lwin, twice in China.

 
 
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