Burma leader brings typhoon aid to PhilippinesBy AP News Dec 05, 2013 11:51AM UTC
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Burma’s president brought additional typhoon aid with him on Wednesday as he began a three-day visit to the Philippines, where he is also expected to seek support for his country’s hosting of an Asian summit next year.
President Thein Sein is to meet his Philippine counterpart, Benigno Aquino III, on Thursday to bolster ties and witness the signing of trade, investment, agricultural and visa-exemption accords. His visit is a milestone in relations with the Philippines, which used to be one of the harshest critics of Burma’s former ruling junta.
A half-century of brutal military rule ended when Thein Sein’s elected government took power in 2011.
The Burma leader will visit areas ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan, which left at least 5,719 people dead and 1,779 others missing. Search teams continue to discover bodies nearly a month after one of the most ferocious typhoons on record struck Nov. 8, flattening entire towns and villages.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Burma is among more than 60 countries that have given aid to the country. He said it provided $100,000 and about seven tons of food and other relief goods. Thein Sein brought some additional aid to be turned over to Philippine officials, but details of the assistance have not been announced.
During talks with Aquino, Thein Sein is expected to discuss and seek support from the Philippines for Burma’s hosting next year of an annual summit of leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. An extended meeting called the East Asia summit is expected to be attended by President Barack Obama and 17 other Asian and world leaders.
Long seen as a close China ally, Burma is expected to walk a tightrope when it hosts the ASEAN meetings, where Chinese diplomats have opposed discussions of long-simmering territorial disputes in the past. The Philippines and Vietnam, which have long been at odds with China over disputed islands, have insisted on raising the topic in the meetings.
A regional summit two years ago hosted by Cambodia, another China ally, failed to issue a closing unity statement after Cambodian diplomats opposed mention of the disputes.
Del Rosario said the Philippines will fully support Burma’s ASEAN chairmanship and that he is confident it “will serve as an objective chair.”
“It is their first opportunity to manifest international leadership,” del Rosario said.