Obama's Myanmar trip "no threat to Chinese interests"

Fri Nov 9, 2012 6:36am EST
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - A landmark trip by U.S. President Barack Obama to Myanmar this month poses no threat to China's interests in the Southeast Asian country, a senior Chinese official from a key border province said on Friday.

Obama will become the first U.S. leader to visit Myanmar, the strongest international endorsement of a fragile democratic transition that his administration believes could help counter China's influence in a strategically important region.

Chinese media, academics and even a few diplomats have worried that U.S. engagement in rapidly democratizing Myanmar could threaten Beijing's relationship with what had been an important trade partner and de facto ally.

But Qin Guangrong, the Communist Party chief of Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar and has deep business ties with it, said China was fully behind its opening up, especially as peace and stability there would benefit China.

Qin said he was well aware of Obama's pending trip.

"We understand and support the wish of the Myanmar authorities wanting to open up and become part of the world," he told reporters on the sidelines of a Communist Party congress, in rare comments on a sensitive relationship.

"We believe that Myanmar's leaders will exercise their wisdom to lead their country's opening up. They know that the people of China will always be true friends of Myanmar's."

China has long been worried by instability in its much poorer southern neighbor, whether by fighting between Myanmar's government and ethnic rebels spilling over into China or by the flow of drugs in its southwestern provinces.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington September 19, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque