Chinese president to make first China state visit to Myanmar in 19 years

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28, 2019. AFP/Nicolas Asfouri. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BEIJING, Jan 10, 2020, Bloomberg. Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Myanmar on January 17 for his first state visit of the year, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui announced, Bloomberg reported.

During the two-day trip, Xi will meet with the country’s defacto leader, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, General Min Aung Hlaing, Luo said at a press conference on Friday. The trip, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of China-Myanmar diplomatic relations, comes as Myanmar faces widespread condemnation over its treatment of its minority Muslim population in western Rakhine State.

In an effort to develop already deepening ties, Luo said both sides will seek closer economic cooperation through China’s pan-Eurasian Belt and Road Initiative. He also said Xi plans to raise the repatriation of Rohingya refugees — more than 730,000 of whom remain in squalid camps just across the border in Bangladesh following what the UN has termed genocidal acts by the military since 2017.

Last month, Suu Kyi appeared in front of the International Court of Justice at the Hague to defend the country’s military against accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity for the killing and rape of thousands of people.

“It is an issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh and indeed it is an old question,” Luo said. “At the request of the two countries China has played a constructive role in this regard, including trilateral talks on early repatriation.”

In a sign of solidarity with what Luo described as a “Pauk-Phaw friendship” between the two countries, which he said means “brothers born together.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Suu Kyi in the capital, Naypyitaw just one day before she flew to the Netherlands for the International Court of Justice hearings. During the meeting, Wang advocated for the development of a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as part of China’s infrastructure ambitions in the conflict-torn country, according to a ministry statement. Wang stressed that China has always “opposed interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” according to the statement which made no mention of the genocide trial.

Xi’s visit will be the first state trip to Myanmar by a Chinese President in 19 years.

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