Suu Kyi meets Chinese president during visit to boost ties

AP News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2016 7:51 AM
Suu Kyi meets Chinese president during visit to boost ties

BEIJING (AP) — Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to strengthen ties that have been challenged by Myanmar's democratic reforms and the suspension of Chinese projects in the country.

Xi said he hopes Suu Kyi's five-day visit will boost "strategic cooperation between our two nations."

"China attaches great importance to developing relations with Myanmar," he said in the meeting at a government guesthouse in western Beijing. "We should adhere to the correct direction, to push for new progress of bilateral relations and to bring tangible benefits to the two peoples."

Suu Kyi replied that "both sides are advancing relations and deepening mutual understanding and friendship."

The fate of a stalled $3.6 billion dam project in northern Myanmar funded primarily by Chinese energy interests has been a key concern during the visit. Overwhelming local opposition to the Myitsone dam project led Myanmar's previous president, Thein Sein, to suspend it.

Chinese officials have pushed for Suu Kyi to re-start construction. China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday that the two countries agreed to try to find a "proper solution."

Speaking to reporters earlier Friday, Suu Kyi said she had nothing new to announce concerning the dam, which is to be reviewed by a recently formed commission on hydroelectric projects along the Irrawaddy River.

The dam is one of several Chinese-backed projects stalled due to protests by Myanmar citizens newly emboldened to speak out following democratic reforms, part of a larger backlash against China's economic domination of its poor southern neighbor.

Suu Kyi leads Myanmar's government with the title of state counselor after her party won elections last year.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent more than 15 years in detention, mostly under house arrest, under Myanmar's former military junta, which was supported for years by the authoritarian Communist Party-led government in Beijing.

However, analysts say Suu Kyi has shown pragmatism and a desire to re-order Myanmar's relationship with China, its top trading partner and a major investor, while also reaching out to the United States, Europe and Japan.