China says business spats with Myanmar can be resolved

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi after a joint press conference in Naypyitaw on April 5, 2016.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi after a joint press conference in Naypyitaw on April 5, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China is confident it can resolve business disagreements with Myanmar through friendly talks, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after meeting his counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi, amid pressure from China to resume a stalled US$3.6 billion (S$4.86 billion) dam project.

The talks with Mr Wang in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw were Ms Suu Kyi's first official meeting since her appointment as foreign minister.

Last month, China said it would push Myanmar's new government to resume the controversial dam scheme, saying the contract was still valid.

Former Myanmar president Thein Sein angered Beijing in 2011 by suspending the Chinese-invested Myitsone dam project, about 90 per cent of whose power would have gone to China.

Other Chinese projects in Myanmar have proved controversial, among them the Letpadaung copper mine, which has repeatedly sparked protests from people living nearby, and twin Chinese oil and gas pipelines across the country.

With close trade and economic ties between the two countries, it was natural there would be "certain problems", Mr Wang said, according to a statement by China's Foreign Ministry late on Tuesday (April 5).

"Myself and Foreign Minister Suu Kyi reached a consensus, that all problems can find an appropriate resolution via friendly consultations," it quoted Mr Wang as saying, without mentioning specific projects.

Myanmar's new government wants to develop the economy and improve livelihood, and China is willing to invest more in the country, including in infrastructure projects, he added.

"We will guide Chinese companies operating in Myanmar to respect Myanmar's laws and rules, respect local customs, pay attention to environmental protection... and fulfil their responsibility to society," Mr Wang added.

In a sign that the business relationship remains on track, Chinese state-controlled commodity trader Guangdong Zhenrong Energy Co has won approval from the Myanmar government to build a long-planned US$3-billion refinery in partnership with domestic parties, including the energy ministry.

China has been at pains to ensure its formerly close relationship with Myanmar's one-time military rulers continues under the new government, one of the reasons for Mr Wang's visit.

The Global Times, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid, said in an editorial on Wednesday that it hoped the Myitsone Dam could be revived.

"A stable Myanmar under new systems with predictable national policies is in accordance with China's national interests," said the paper, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily.

Clashes between the Myanmar government and ethnic rebel groups in recent years have pushed refugees into China, much to Beijing's anger.