Beijing has proposed that China and Myanmar should “jointly maintain stability in the border area”, a Chinese Defense Ministry statement said on Tuesday.
China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan urged the visiting Myanmar deputy commander-in-chief General Soe Win on Monday to maintain peace in the China-Myanmar border ahead of upcoming elections in the neighbouring country.
“China supports Myanmar’s promotion of its domestic political and national reconciliation process and the successful holding of elections according to schedule, in order to achieve long-term stability and development,” Chang said according to the official statement.
Tensions along the Myanmar side of the Chinese border has aggravated over the recent past as the Myanmar government was besieged by demands of greater autonomy from several ethnic groups.
China has repeatedly raised the issue of reconciliation to halt the civilian strife in Myanmar and called for a ceasefire between government troops and the rebel groups.
Artillery shells exchanged last year between the two fighting sides in Myanmar had flown over the border more than a couple of times and landed inside China.
Fighting erupted in 2010 between the Myanmar government security forces and the ethnic rebel group Kachin Independence Army (KIA) after a 16-year-old truce collapsed.
A tentative agreement between the KIA, a major rebel group, and the provincial Nay Pyi Taw government was reached in October 2013.
China has traditionally close ties with Myanmar, earlier called Burma.
China and Myanmar also share major energy and transport projects and thriving trade ties.
The Myanmar-China natural gas pipeline, China’s fourth strategic energy supply channel, was completed in October 2013.
The pipeline is expected to send 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually to Myanmar and southwest China, which will reduce coal consumption by 30.72 million tonnes per year.
The project is billed as one of energy-hungry China’s most important strategic investments.
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China’s top oil and gas producer, owns the pipelines.
It is part of the $2.5 billion Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline project, which also includes building a crude oil pipeline.
China’s statements coincide with the launch of campaign season in Myanmar, which is preparing for a landmark general election on November 8.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is expected to win a landslide victory in the elections.
Suu Kyi visited Beijing in June this year where she met the top Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping.
China accounts for over 30 per cent of total foreign investments in Myanmar and Suu Kyi would be keen to boost her relationship with Beijing. Nearly 80 per cent of Myanmar’s revenue from the rice trade comes from exports to China
Ahead of the elections, Suu Kyi is keen to reach out to Beijing, Myanmar’s most important economic partner.
Her party is expected to make big gains at the polls – the first general election they have fought since they swept the polls in 1990. The then junta ignored the result.
The Nobel laureate, who has publicly declared her desire to be president, however, has been severely criticised for her refusal to come to the aid of Myanmar’s persecuted refugees, the Rohingyas.
In the past two years, thousands of Muslim Rohingya have been killed by mobs in Rakhine, Myanmar; while thousands have fled the area for fear for further persecution.
Rohingyas, a mostly stateless Muslim minority of about 1.1 million, are living in apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
TBP and Agencies