Myanmar's Suu Kyi Kicks Off China Visit

K J M Varma/Beijing
Myanmar's Suu Kyi Kicks Off China Visit
File-AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe
Myanmar's Suu Kyi Kicks Off China Visit

 China today rolled out a red carpet welcome to Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi who gently reminded Beijing about reviving its USD 3.6 billion hydroelectric dam project which was stalled over public protests for the past five years.

Suu Kyi today kicked off a five-day visit to China, the first after her government took over power, during which Beijing has decided to welcome her as Head of Government, in recognition of her status as highest ranking political leader of the country even through her designation is the State Councillor and Foreign Minister.

"As is known to all, State Counsellor is ranked second only to the President among all the posts in the state organs of Myanmar," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.

It was decided after communication between the two sides that Premier Li Keqiang will invite Suu Kyi for the visit and holds talks with her, he said.

She is also expected to meet President Xi Jinping.

Suu Kyi's visit comes roughly one week after Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw decided to form a new commission for reviewing all proposed hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River, including the Myitsone Dam, which is jointly funded by China and Myanmar, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

It was suspended by former Myanmar military government in 2011 following public protests .

Although the move does not necessarily lead to a final resumption of the project, it is a positive signal that the new leadership in Naypyidaw is handling its relationship with Beijing in a prudent and pragmatic manner, it said.

"For the record, the Myitsone Dam is a key bilateral commercial project, while the Chinese backer of the project has already paid 60 per cent of the investment. Once the project is completed and put into operation, Myanmar can make the most of the Irrawaddy River's hydropower resources, and export electricity in return for handsome economic benefits, a win-win deal," it said.

Chinese media regards Suu Kyi's visit as a diplomatic victory as she is visiting Beijing before visiting the US or Europe which backed her during her prolonged campaign against rule by Beijing-backed military junta.

"It will be the first visit to China by a leader of Myanmar following the establishment of its new government, and thus is of great significance to promoting China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in the new era," Lu said.

"It is believed that the visit will help enhance strategic communication, deepen pragmatic cooperation, increase amity among the people, further advance the bilateral relationship and deliver more benefits to people from both sides," he said.

This will be Suu Kyi's second trip to China. She met with Xi the first time through a party-to-party channel in June, 2015 before Myanmar's general election in November

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