China, Myanmar agree to work for border stability

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Myanmar agreed on Monday to work together to ensure stability along their border, state media said, after violence erupted on the Myanmar side in August that pushed thousands of refugees into China.

China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang (R) walks past President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this March 2009 file photo. China and Myanmar agreed on Monday to work together to ensure stability along their border, state media said. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

“China and Myanmar should make efforts together to strengthen exchanges and cooperation, as well as safeguard stability on the border areas for the sake of the fundamental interests of the two peoples,” Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang as telling a visiting Myanmar minister.

Li added that China “would keep supporting Myanmar’s economic construction and sustainable development”.

In August, Myanmar’s army overran Kokang, a territory that lies along the border with the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan and was controlled for years by an ethnic Chinese militia that paid little heed to the central government.

Many of the refugees were ethnic Chinese, some of them Chinese citizens, who complained their houses and businesses had been sacked and looted during the violence.

Last month, China rapped the former Burma over the violence, demanding the government protect Chinese citizens and make sure such such incidents did not happen again.

But relations appear to be improving again.

Xinhua said vice premier Li met the visiting Myanmar minister, Tin Aung Myint Oo, during a meeting in the southwestern Chinese city of Nanning.

“Tin Aung Myint Oo extended thanks for China’s support during the meeting, saying that Myanmar appreciated its friendly relations with China,” the report said.

Myanmar was willing to deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation and stabilise the border areas, Xinhua reported the minister as saying.

The August crisis tested ties between two countries who view each other as strategic friends.

Energy-hungry China is one of the few powers willing to do business with military-run Myanmar, and has invested more than $1 billion to get access to natural resources such as oil and gas.

Resource-rich Myanmar has parried Western sanctions and pressure from its Southeast Asian neighbours over its shoddy human rights record by courting China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Bill Tarrant