China willing to engage Myanmar to ease tensions: China foreign minister

Anti-coup protesters in Yangon on March 7, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters in Yangon on March 7, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - China is willing to work with the parties involved in Myanmar's military coup towards a peaceful settlement in the South-east Asian country.

"The immediate priority is to prevent further bloodshed and conflict," said China's top diplomat Wang Yi on Sunday (March 7).

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of China's annual parliamentary meetings, Mr Wang iterated China's offer of assistance to ease tensions in Myanmar in two ways, including engaging with its leaders from different parties and factions.

It will do so with respect to Myanmar's sovereignty and the wishes of its citizens, Mr Wang said, adding that China has a "long-term and friendly relationship" with the various leaders in Myanmar.

Mr Wang also reiterated China's willingness to support Asean in its efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

He said: "Myanmar is part of Asean. China supports Asean's principle of non-interference and focus on developing mutual economic interests."

Mr Wang said: "We hope that parties in Myanmar maintain calm restraint and keep citizens' interests in mind while resolving the conflict in a lawful manner... as part of its plan for a democratic transition."

He added: "China's determination to improve its relationship with Myanmar will not waver."

Myanmar shares a border with Yunnan, a province in south-western China. China has many infrastructure projects in Myanmar as part of its Belt and Road initiative.

Assistant Professor Benjamin Ho, who is with the China Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said China has constantly emphasised the principle of non-interference in another country’s domestic politics.

“In this case, it would be better for Beijing to wait out the situation in Myanmar without getting involved,” he added.

“China’s priority is to ensure that its interests, such as natural resources like timber, jade and natural gas, are not harmed. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which links Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal, is also an important route for China in terms of trade,” Prof Ho said.

Myanmar's military seized power from its democratically elected government on Feb 1. It has also detained state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint and other senior figures from the ruling party.

The coup sparked protests throughout the country and caused clashes between protesters and security forces, leaving more than 50 dead.