China to hold military drills along volatile Myanmar border

AP News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2015 2:15 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China's military will hold live-firing exercises this week along its volatile border with Myanmar near where Chinese civilians were killed by stray bombs from fighting between rebels and Myanmar's government.

The Defense Ministry said the exercises starting Tuesday in Yunnan province will include both ground and air elements. It didn't say how many troops would be involved or how long the exercises would last. Aircraft were warned to stay away.

The drills will be held in jungle-covered mountains along China's southwestern border, directly across from where Myanmar troops have been battling ethnic Kokang rebels.

A bombing run by a Myanmar plane in March killed five farmers on the Chinese side, leading to an official apology. China has complained of cross-border firing several times and urged Myanmar to restore stability.

The March incident sparked widespread outrage in China, and Premier Li Keqiang issued a statement condemning it after being questioned about it at his annual news conference.

This week's exercises are the first publicly announced in the area since the bombing and appear to be intended to show China's ability to deal with any military emergency in the area, such as a spillover of fighting across the border.

Thousands of refugees also have streamed across the border to avoid the fighting, which is believed to have killed hundreds of people. The Kokang are descendants of ethnic Chinese migrants who have long operated on both sides of the border.

Myanmar's government has accused several other ethnic groups of supporting the Kokang rebels in combat, and has claimed that former Chinese soldiers have provided training. China's government has disavowed any links with the militants, saying it respects Myanmar's sovereignty and will not allow any group to use Chinese territory to destabilize a neighboring country.