Burma: Chinese naval ships to conduct joint exercises amid closer ties
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Burma: Chinese naval ships to conduct joint exercises amid closer ties

CHINA’s defence ministry has confirmed the arrival of naval ships in Burma (Myanmar) to conduct joint search and rescue and communications exercises, after the countries’ heads of state met earlier in the week.

The ships arrived in Yangon on Thursday for a four-day visit said military spokesman Wu Qian, fresh off the back of Asean and China agreeing upon a draft framework for conduct in the disputed South China Sea. Aung San Suu Kyi met Xi Jinping in Beijing during the Belt and Road Forum.

Wu said China was willing to strengthen strategic communication and deepen cooperation with Burma, while making joint efforts to safeguard regional peace and stability and promote bilateral ties.

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Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 16, 2017. Source: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri/Pool

SEE ALSO: China, Asean approve framework for South China Sea code of conduct

On Tuesday, Xi offered assistance in the Burmese peace process as the central government struggles to end decades of violence with several of its ethnic minority groups.

Since October last year the military has led a crackdown in Rakhine State after a deadly assault on three border guard posts. The UN has claimed that more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in the army’s operations in Rakhine, and at least 70,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

“China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar’s internal peace process,” said the Chinese President as quoted by state news agency Xinhua. “The two sides must jointly work to safeguard China-Myanmar border security and stability.”

For decades while western countries imposed sanctions on Burma’s military dictatorship, China invested heavily in the country and had close relations with the ruling junta. It continues to watch the country’s democratisation process closely.

China has also long expressed concern over violence along its land border with Burma, which in 2015 killed five people within its territory.

This week a documentary produced by the NGO Global Witness was released showing how jade mining in Burma’s northernmost Kachin State, which borders China, continues to encourage ethnic armed conflict.

Additional reporting from Reuters.