China sent its top diplomat to Burma for talks with the military junta, which overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi last year, as Beijing seeks to increase bilateral ties in the region.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Burmese counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin on the sidelines of the seventh Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Burma—also known as Myanmar—on July 3.
During the meeting, Wang said the relations between China and Burma remained “rock-solid” and “unbreakable” regardless of domestic changes in either country, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
The Chinese regime will maintain its “friendly policy” with Burma and support the country’s efforts “in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and national dignity on international occasions,” Wang said.
The two sides agreed to speed up the construction of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and hold discussions “at an appropriate time to elevate bilateral economic and trade cooperation.”
They also agreed to “implement the cross-border power grid agreement” and ensure “the smooth operation of China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines.”
The ministry stated that Wunna Maung Lwin conveyed to Wang his gratitude for China’s “selfless help to Myanmar’s national development” and pledged to support Beijing’s positions on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang.
China maintains its close ties with Burma despite widespread condemnation of the military junta’s removal of Suu Kyi’s elected government and repression of pro-democracy protesters.
Several Western countries have hit the Burmese military and its businesses with sanctions due to its suppression of anti-coup protesters and the prosecution of Suu Kyi, while China and Russia blocked the U.N. Security Council from condemning the military coup last year.
At least 1,600 people have been killed, and more than 12,500 people have been detained since the military seized power in February last year. About 440,000 others have been displaced, according to the United Nations.
Burma’s previous government, led by Suu Kyi, signed 33 bilateral agreements with China in January 2020 to implement the CMEC, which is part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that critics have denounced as a “debt trap” for smaller nations.
The CMEC involves a number of infrastructure projects in Burma, including a railway connecting China’s Yunan Province to Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State, which will provide Beijing with direct access to the Indian Ocean, as well as the construction of a deep seaport there.
According to local reports, the agreements also include the establishment of “a Friendship-Province Relationship” between the Yunnan Province and Burma’s Yangon region and the implementation of the CMEC in the Mandalay region.
Both sides agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the China-Burma Power Interconnection Project.
But the agreements did not include the Chinese-backed $3.6 billion hydropower dam project in the Kachin State, which was halted in 2011 due to public dissent over the project’s environmental and socioeconomic implications.