Clinton's Myanmar trip 'won't hurt ties'

Updated: 2011-12-14 07:58

By Ma Liyao and Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The United States has no intention of negatively influencing China-Myanmar relations, a US official said on Tuesday.

Ambassador Derek Mitchell, the US special representative and policy coordinator for Myanmar, was in Beijing on the third leg of his Asia trip to brief China on Washington's improving relations with the Southeast Asian country after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit.

Mitchell said in his meetings with Chinese officials he wanted "to gain perspectives about how China is thinking about things and see if there might be opportunities to coordinate, cooperate and work together in the interests of regional stability as well as the interests of the (Myanmar) people", according to Reuters.

Clinton wrapped up her three-day visit to Myanmar on Dec 2, the first by a US secretary of state since 1955.

Clinton's visit was based on the judgment that the country was starting a political reform process to "adopt a path to democracy and openness and development for all of the people", Mitchell said.

According to a brief announcement in the official media on Tuesday, Myanmar's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was re-registered as a legal political party.

The NLD had made clear earlier that it would run in upcoming by-elections after the party regained legal status. The date of the by-elections has not been announced, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Myanmar's political reform process is still at a "very early stage", said Mitchell.

Mitchell's trip to Beijing followed visits to Seoul and Tokyo.

On Monday, the United Kingdom announced that Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to visit Myanmar early next month.

Song Qingrun, a Myanmar studies researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Mitchell's visit is an attempt to explain Clinton's visit.

Mitchell said "there's no intent" to negatively influence China-Myanmar relations while the US is developing its relationship with Myanmar, adding that it's not in the interests of the US for Myanmar to have tension with its neighbors.

Tao Wenzhao, a senior fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said though Clinton's visit was partly a response to Myanmar's reform initiatives, it can also be seen as an integral part of the US strategy to regain its influence in Asia, noting that prior to Clinton's visit, several senior US diplomats, including Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, had visited the country.

However, analysts also said the current US engagement with Myanmar is still at the "primary phase" and the lifting of sanctions is still not in sight.

China recognizes and understands Myanmar's need to diversify its diplomatic ties, and that does not necessarily come at the expense of China-Myanmar relations, analysts said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said earlier this month that China believes Myanmar and Western countries should improve relations on the basis of mutual respect, and relevant countries should lift sanctions on Myanmar to promote its stability and development.

Ouyang Yuanhua contributed to the story.

China Daily

(China Daily 12/14/2011 page11)