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November 30, 2011

China: Lift Burma Sanctions

China is calling for the lifting of sanctions on Burma imposed by the United States and Europe.  

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says China welcomes Burma's apparent warming towards the United States, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes a landmark trip to the southeast Asian nation.

Hong says China welcomes the policies taken by the Burmese government to push forward internal political reconciliation. At the same time, he says China believes Burma and western countries should increase contact and improve relations on the basis of mutual respect.

At a regular briefing Thursday, Hong also pointed to one concrete action Washington could take - lifting sanctions on Burma.

Hong says China believes that what he referred to as “relevant countries” should lift sanctions on Burma to promote that country's stability and development.

Secretary Clinton has made it clear that the United States needs to see more progress on human rights before it will consider ending economic sanctions.

Despite the Chinese government's official welcoming of U.S.-Burma rapprochement, Chinese media and experts have accused Washington of using Burma as part of a strategy to contain China.

John Blaxland is a former Australian military attache to Burma. He says China's role as Burma's big brother cannot be underestimated.

“China obviously has a very important role to play in the future of Burma, and the Burmese recognize that, but they need some wiggle room," said Blaxland. "They're concerned, I believe, that they don't want to be too beholden to the Chinese.”

He adds that the military relationship with China is the most important one that Burma has. He says China supplies most of Burma's military equipment and the two countries have close military exchange programs.