China's Xi Jinping discusses Rohingya crisis with Myanmar army chief

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (second left) attending an event in Yangon in July 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Myanmar's top military general in Beijing on Friday (Nov 24) and discussed China's support amid international criticism over its treatment of the Rohingya minority, according a statement from the general.

China has offered diplomatic backing to its southern neighbour throughout the crisis, despite growing pressure from Western countries for the Myanmar military to be accountable for alleged atrocities.

More than 600,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim group have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar's Rakhine State to Bangladesh in three months since insurgent attacks on security posts sparked a brutal counter-insurgency campaign.

China helped to block a resolution on the crisis at the UN Security Council, while the United States this week called the response by the military and local vigilantes "ethnic cleansing", echoing earlier statements by senior United Nations officials.

According to a statement on the Facebook page of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, he and the Chinese leader on Friday discussed the "promotion of cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, the situation of China standing on Myanmar's side at the forefront of the international community regarding the Rakhine issue," and other issues.

Min Aung Hlaing arrived in China on Tuesday and has largely met Chinese military officers during his visit.

The statement also said they discussed ongoing talks between Myanmar's government and myriad ethnic insurgent groups, some of whom are based along Myanmar's shared border with China.

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According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Xi said China was closely watching the peace process and was "willing to play a constructive role... for security and stability in their border areas."

The Xinhua account did not mention Rakhine, but cited Xi saying that China "always respects Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

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