China offers support to Myanmar at U.N. amid Rohingya crisis

BEIJING (Reuters) - China supports efforts by the Myanmar government to protect its national security and opposes recent violent attacks in the country’s Rakhine state, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres prior to their meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The military response to insurgent attacks in the western region of Myanmar last month sent more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, escaping what the United Nations has branded ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s government says about 400 people have been killed in the fighting.

Britain, France and Australia urged Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday to push for an end to military violence against Rohingya Muslims. Her national security adviser said those who had fled could return but the process had to be discussed.

Wang told Guterres at a meeting at the United Nations on Monday China “understands and supports” Myanmar’s efforts to protect its security in Rakhine and hopes the “fire of war” can soon be extinguished, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

China expresses sympathy with those who have fled into Bangladesh and will send humanitarian aid to Bangladesh, Wang said.

“China advocates Myanmar and Bangladesh resolving the problem via dialogue and consultation,” the Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.

“China is willing to continue promoting peace talks in its own way, and hopes the international community can play a constructive role to ease the situation and promote dialogue,” he said.

China and Myanmar have close economic and diplomatic ties and China has defied expectations that democratization in the former Burma could lead to weaker relations between the two countries.

About a million Rohingya lived in Rakhine State until the recent violence. Most face draconian travel restrictions and are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait