China offers Myanmar support to end ethnic unrest near border

November 29, 2016 11:38 PM EST

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi looks on in Riga, Latvia, November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins


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BEIJING (Reuters) - China has told Myanmar that they should work together to stabilize their shared border, in the wake of a series of attacks by ethnic armed groups on Myanmar security forces and thousands of people crossing into China to escape the violence.

The attacks this month dealt a major blow to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's top goal of reaching peace with ethnic minorities, while China is worried about the risk of violence in northern Myanmar spilling onto its side of the border, as it did last year, when five Chinese people were killed.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday told a visiting Myanmar delegation, led by peace commission chair Tin Myo Win, that Beijing was worried by the deteriorating situation and repeated a call for an end to military action and for talks to resolve disputes.

"Both sides should properly use the China-Myanmar high-level diplomatic and military mechanism to jointly maintain the peace and stability of the China-Myanmar border region," a Foreign Ministry statement on Wednesday paraphrased Wang as saying.

The sudden escalation in fighting comes as the Myanmar government grapples with a conflict in northwestern Rakhine that has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, posing a new challenge to Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi, who swept to power last year on promises of national reconciliation.

Previous fighting along the border pushed thousands of people into China. And Wang expressed support for Myanmar's internal peace process and China's readiness to help.

"China is willing, in accordance with Myanmar's wishes and on the precondition of not interfering in Myanmar's internal affairs, to play a constructive role in this regard," Wang said.

The ministry said Tin Myo Win explained the peace process and that Myanmar understood China's concerns and hoped to get Chinese support for ameliorating the situation.

Separately, China's Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters that the military had been strengthening patrols along the border and making preparations for any eventualities. He gave no details.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)



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