September 22, 2015 / 3:26 AM / in 2 years

China calls for border stability in Myanmar ahead of elections

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defense Minister has urged Myanmar to maintain stability on their common border as the Southeast Asian country prepares for what Beijing hopes will be successful elections in November, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

A boy waves the National League for Democracy (NLD) party's flag during Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's speech as she campaigns for the upcoming general election, in Loikaw capital city of Kayah state September 11, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Myanmar holds an historic election in November, when the military-backed ruling party will compete with the ascendant National League for Democracy (NLD) party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the first free national vote in 25 years.

Since taking power in March 2011, Myanmar’s reformist government has sought to decrease the heavy dependence on China that grew when Myanmar was a pariah state under military rule.

Beijing has watched nervously as the United States lifted some sanctions and engaged with the semi-civilian government, although China has also been keen to engage other political parties such as the NLD.

China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told Myanmar’s deputy commander-in-chief General Soe Win, who was visiting Beijing for military talks, on Monday that China and Myanmar should “jointly maintain stability in the border area”.

Ties between Myanmar and China soured this year over fighting between Myanmar’s military and the ethnic Chinese Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army along part of the shared border.

Chinese citizens have been killed by bombs and stray shells falling inside China’s territory, angering Beijing.

“China supports Myanmar’s promotion of its domestic political and national reconciliation process and the successful holding of elections according to schedule, in order to achieve long-term stability and development,” Chang was quoted as saying.

China will be paying close attention to the election, worried that any change in government could affect its investments in Myanmar, particularly key oil and gas pipelines and hydropower schemes.

In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Suu Kyi in Beijing he hoped Myanmar would maintain a consistent and positive position on relations, regardless of any changes in Myanmar’s domestic politics.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Paul Tait

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