BANGKOK (AP) — The head of Myanmar’s military-controlled government, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, met Tuesday with the visiting foreign minister of China, which has provided key support to his regime since it seized power two years ago.
Myanmar state television MRTV said Qin Gang held talks in the capital, Naypyitaw, with Min Aung Hlaing and other top officials and exchanged views on bilateral relations, Myanmar’s political situation and conditions needed for its stability and development.
Myanmar is mired in strife because of a political crisis unleashed when the military took power in February 2021, deposing the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The takeover prompted widespread peaceful protests that security forces suppressed with deadly force, triggering armed resistance throughout the country that the army has been unable to quell.
China has strategic geopolitical and economic interests in Myanmar, its southern neighbor, and is one of the few large nations that has maintained good relations with its military government, which is shunned and sanctioned by many Western nations for its takeover and brutal repression of its opponents.
China, along with Russia, is a major arms supplier to Myanmar’s military. It also is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner and has invested billions of dollars in Myanmar’s mines, oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure.
Qin’s visit was announced Tuesday by China’s Foreign Ministry, which said it would follow up on the outcomes of President Xi Jinping’s visit in January 2020, deepen cooperation and “support Myanmar’s efforts to maintain stability, revitalize the economy, improve people’s lives, and realize sustainable development.”
MRTV reported that Qin said his visit showed that China stands by Myanmar internationally.
Qin’s visit to Naypyitaw came a day after he met with Noeleen Heyzer, the U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, in Beijing on Monday.
Qin told Heyzer that international society should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and support all parties in Myanmar within the constitutional and legal framework to bridge differences and resume a political transition through political dialogue, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
Qin also said the Myanmar issue is complex and there is no “quick fix,” it said.
Opponents of military rule in Myanmar suspect that China supported the military takeover because it has refused to condemn the military for its action and initially described it as “a major Cabinet reshuffle.”
Beijing’s adherence to a nominal policy of non-interference in other countries’ politics has angered many in Myanmar who oppose the military, with some calling for boycotts of Chinese products.
Since the military seized power, a special Chinese envoy, Sun Guoxiang, visited Myanmar twice and previous Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Wunna Maung Lwin, Myanmar’s former foreign minister, twice in China.
Wang Yi also attended a regional meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group held in Myanmar’s central city of Bagan in July last year.
A new Chinese special envoy, Deng Xijun, visited Myanmar in December, February and March and held separate meetings with Min Aung Hlaing and the leaders of ethnic armed forces based in the eastern Shan and northern Kachin states.
Myanmar’s military said Qin will leave on Thursday, after which he is to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Indian state of Goa.
Earlier Tuesday, Qin called for stability and a crackdown on cross-border criminal activity along his country’s border with Myanmar during an unusual visit to southern China’s border region.
The 2,129-kilometer (1,323-mile) border runs through densely forested mountains and has long been notorious for drug smuggling into China from the “Golden Triangle” region where the borders of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet.
The United Nations says the production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military seized power in 2021, with the cultivation of poppies up by a third in the past year as eradication efforts dropped off and the faltering economy led more people to enter the drug trade.