Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi left for a high-profile trip to China on Wednesday to discuss the way forward on the jointly built dam and hydroelectric plant that Myanmar halted amid questions on which country’s purpose the project will serve.
Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 18, 2016.
According to officials, AP reported, Kyi’s trip to China is aimed at discussing issues bordering on the two countries’ fresh and delicate era in relations.
Other points on the agenda include development aid and Myanmar’s upcoming complex peace process involving the government, the military and ethnic armed groups.
“The intention of the five-day visit is to build better relationship, and of course China will definitely talk about continuing the dam project but it won’t be our priority of the visit,” said Aye Aye Soe, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs’ Political Department.
Premier Li Keqiang hosted the visitors to an elite welcome party on Thursday.
It is Suu Kyi’s first visit to Beijing since her National League for Democracy party took office in March.
During their first talks at the party, China’s Premier Li says Beijing is willing to link strategies with its neighbor and advance major projects.
China and Myanmar also vowed on Thursday to further enhance political trust with mutual respect, to advance major investment projects, and to realize peaceful settlement of hostilities in northern Myanmar.
“China is the first country you’ve visited outside the Association of Southeast Asia Nations after taking office as state counselor.
This shows the important you and your government [Myanmar] have attached to the bilateral relations between our countries,” Li said, adding that the two countries bilateral cooperation should focus on mutual benefits and balanced achievements for all.
He continued: “China is willing to link its strategies with Myanmar’s, to cooperate in key areas and to advance major projects such as the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline project and Myitsone Dam.
“China supports Myanmar in choosing a path suitable for its own national condition and backs its efforts to develop its economy and improve people’s livelihoods,” Li said.
“China respects Myanmar’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to play a constructive role in promoting peaceful settlement of hostilities between armed ethnic groups and the national government in northern Myanmar.”
The dam, a joint project to build a large hydropower station, began construction in 2009 but was halted by Myanmar over environmental concerns in 2011.
Li however, expressed hopes that Myanmar can resolve the issue of the dam.
The premier said China and Myanmar are closely connected by extensive mountains and rivers, and the two peoples call each other “baobo” (Chinese word for brothers and relatives).
Suu Kyi said: Myanmar will set up an investigative commission to find a solution, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.
“Myanmar’s new administration highly values its ties with China and is committed to strengthening relations.
“My country will continue high-level exchanges with its neighbor, enhance political trust, boost cooperation in such fields as cross-border trade and agriculture, and maintain stability in border areas,” she added.
Deputy Minister Liu said: “China and Myanmar agreed to promote the peaceful settlement by strengthening communication and exchanges.
“After the meeting, two agreements were signed on economic and technological cooperation between the two countries.
“Suu Kyi is to visit Shaanxi and Yunnan provinces after her trip to Beijing, and she has invited Li to visit Myanmar,” Liu said.
“China is Myanmar’s biggest source of investment, and both countries have historically forged a deep-rooted friendship,” said Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
“China is willing to see a peaceful and stable Myanmar and will take a responsible and constructive role in helping to achieve that goal.
“Myanmar has started to open up to the outside world,” Ruan said.
“China should get used to new changes and work with the neighbor to achieve pragmatic and win-win cooperation.”