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China, Myanmar Sign Dozens of Infrastructure Deals


In this photo released by Office of the Commander in Chief of Defense Services, Myanmar's Army Commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, center left, speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, at a hotel in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Jan. 18, 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reinforced his support for embattled Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, signing 33 bilateral agreements covering a range of projects, including rail and port ventures to allow China access to the Indian Ocean and to shorten the route for its oil and gas imports from the Persian Gulf.

The agreements were signed in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw at the end of Xi’s two-day visit, the first to the country by a Chinese head of state in 19 years.

Xi’s visit came as the Myanmar government faces intense global criticism for a 2017 military campaign that targeted minority Rohingya Muslims, resulting in the deaths of thousands and the exile of nearly 750,000 others.

U.N. investigators have described the military campaign as genocide, a charge Myanmar is facing at the International Court of Justice.

The two leaders also signed agreements covering the resettlement of internally displaced persons in Myanmar's Kachin State, on the border with China, and deals pertaining to security, agriculture and information.

Xi also met Saturday with the Myanmar military chief who is accused of overseeing the campaign against the Rohingya Muslims.

After the meeting in Naypyitaw with military chief Min Aung Hlaing, Xi said the two countries were on the right track of close cooperation and mutual support, despite changes in bilateral relations over the past 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, according to VOA’s Burmese service.

The military chief said Myamar was grateful for China’s long-term assistance to his country’s economic and social development and national defense, the Burmese service reported.

The chief added that Myanmar’s armed forces firmly adhere to the one-China principle and believe that issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang are entirely China’s internal affairs and that no foreign country should interfere.

China has supported Myanmar throughout the Rohingya crisis and is now increasing efforts to solidify its relationship with the Southeast Asian country, a strategically located country in the region.

The agreements are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious global infrastructure development and investment plan to facilitate trade from East Asia to Europe.

Xi's visit coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar, then known as Burma.

VOA's Burmese service contributed to this report.