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Relations with Myanmar at a 'starting point'

By Zhang Yunbi and Wang Xu | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2016-04-10 14:15

Foreign ministers meet just days after new government takes office, as Beijing agrees to help boost peace talks in north of country

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on his recent visit to Myanmar that the two nations should "reinforce high-level exchanges as soon as possible" and "properly tackle issues facing their cooperation".

While meeting with his Myanmar counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi on April 5, Wang said his visit, days after the new government took office, highlighted the friendship between the two neighbors.

Relations with Myanmar at a 'starting point'

Foreign Minister Wang Yi greets Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's new foreign minister and leader of the National League for Democracy party, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on April 5. Aung Shine Oo / AP

"China-Myanmar relations are now at a new historical starting point," he said.

Wang also said China is ready to play a role in boosting peace talks over the troubled situation in northern Myanmar at the country's request.

The north of the country has been in turmoil in recent years, with Chinese citizens killed and injured in bombings along the border. Wang outlined Beijing's stance to the Southeast Asian nation's newly elected President U Htin Kyaw.

Wang is the first top foreign diplomat to call upon Suu Kyi since the new government took office on March 30. Suu Kyi led a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy, which before the election victory was an influential opposition party.

At a news conference after the meeting with Wang, she described relations as "very important politically as well as socially and economically", Agence France-Presse reported.

Wang said China was eager to "build more confidence" between the nations and vowed that Beijing would support Myanmar's process of national reconciliation.

"China is a good neighbor to Myanmar. We want to improve the relationship between the two countries," he said.

China is Myanmar's largest trade partner and investment source.

Observers said Myanmar's new administration will pursue greater economic growth and address the dire need for industries.

Nyunt Maung Shein, chairman of the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies, tells China Daily that two-way relations "have been tested over time", and that the new administration "will pursue traditional, friendly relations" with China.

China is "an important neighbor of Myanmar", and "it is quite natural" that Myanmar has accepted Wang as the first visiting foreign minister after Suu Kyi became foreign minister, he says.

Chinese investment that will benefit Myanmar's development, create job opportunities for its people, and promote corporate social responsibility and preservation of the environment "will always be welcome in Myanmar", he adds.

The talks on April 5 were expected to cover a number of pragmatic cooperation programs of common concern.

Xu Liping, a senior research fellow of Southeast Asia studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says Myanmar has sent a clear signal to China that "it is in Myanmar's best interests to reinforce cooperation and ties with China".

The Myanmar government is now engaged in boosting national reconciliation and improving people's livelihoods, while China has played a constructive role in this regard, Xu says.

"Myanmar wants to update its water projects and infrastructure and develop its industrial parks, while China happens to have vast experience" in these matters, he says.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference on April 5 in Beijing that two-way pragmatic cooperation in recent years "has promoted Myanmar's economic and social development and benefited the local people".

On March 15, President Xi Jinping sent a message to U Htin Kyaw to congratulate him on his election as Myanmar's new president.

Xi said China is "willing to work with Myanmar to promote the durable and stable development of the China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation and bring more benefits to both peoples".

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