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Asia

Deepening partnership between China and Myanmar

China signed 15 major deals with Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Thursday. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met junta chief Than Shwe during his two-day visit to the military state.

The staff of the Chinese embassy in Yangon presents a bouquet to Chinese PM Wen Jiabao on his arrival on Wednesday

The staff of the Chinese embassy in Yangon presents a bouquet to Chinese PM Wen Jiabao on his arrival on Wednesday

Wen Jiabao is the first Chinese premier to visit Myanmar in 16 years. His short visit was aimed at boosting economic ties. On Thursday, Mr Wen met junta chief Than Shwe in the capital Naypyidaw and also held talks with his Burmese counterpart, Thein Sein. The two prime ministers witnessed the signing of 15 economic agreements on issues ranging from a natural gas pipeline, a hydroproject, trade and finance, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

China also offered more aid to Myanmar, Xinhua said.

Myanmar junta leader Sen. Gen. Than Shwe

Myanmar junta leader Sen. Gen. Than Shwe

Pariah's state's key ally

Military-run Myanmar is largely shunned by Western countries because of the lack of democracy and poor human rights record. The West imposed sanctions on Myanmar in 1988, after a military crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

China remains Myanmar's major ally and a trading partner, especially in the mining sector. In November last year, a top Chinese oil producer began constructing a pipeline across Myanmar.

Border issue

Despite the close relations between the junta and the Chinese leadership, there was some tension last year when clashes broke out between Myanmar's military and rebel ethnic forces in Myanmar's remote northeast, leading to thousands of refugees fleeing into China's Yunnan province.

Refugees who fled Myanmar last August at a temporary refugee center in the Chinese border town of Nansan

Refugees who fled Myanmar last August at a temporary refugee center in the Chinese border town of Nansan

On Thursday, both countries agreed to maintain stability in the border regions. According to Xinhua, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he and Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein had "reached a broad understanding on protecting the peace and stability of the border regions."

Wen's visit came at a time when Myanmar's military government is preparing for elections that it has announced for this year. The international community and human rights groups have already dismissed the polls as a sham because of new laws that effectively led to the exclusion of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

There was no confirmation that the Chinese PM discussed the elections with the junta leaders during his trip.

In 1990, Suu Kyi's party won the last national polls by a landslide but the ruling generals refused to recognize the results. Suu Kyi has spent many of the past 20 years under arrest.

du/Reuters/AFP/dpa
Editor: Anne Thomas

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