Tensions between China and Myanmar are running high after Beijing accused Myanmar military aircraft of dropping a bomb in Chinese territory, killing four sugarcane farmers and wounding nine others.
China said the Myanmar military was to blame, but the Myanmar government said no bombs from its aircraft have fallen in Chinese territory. Myanmar argued that ethnic rebels it was fighting in the north may have fired into China to create a misunderstanding. Rebel fighters did not have any aircraft.
Earlier in the week, China called on Myanmar to “lower the temperature” along the Chinese border in southern Yunnan province where the fighting has been going on for more than a month, causing tens of thousands to flee into China.
A top military official in China, General Fan Changlong, said Saturday that Beijing would take “decisive measures” if Myanmar did not take steps to keep its fight with ethnic rebels in the north from spilling into Chinese territory.
According to state media reports, the fighting between Kokang ethnic rebels and Myanmar forces has crossed the border at least four times in recent days. In another incident a house was flattened by a stray shell from Myanmar.
On Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang called the incident "deeply distressing" and expressed his condolences to the families of those who were killed in the air raid. Li also said China was prepared to protect its territory.
“The Chinese military and Foreign Ministry have both made stern representations with Myanmar and we have the responsibility and the capacity to firmly safeguard stability in the border areas between the two countries and protect the life and property of our people,” Li said.
China has called for a thorough investigation into the incident and urged that those responsible be severely punished. Myanmar has promised to fully cooperate with China, but an official who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said radar and GPS records of its jets show that none of its aircraft have stayed into Chinese territory.
The official also said Myanmar has kept Beijing informed of its airstrikes in the border area beforehand and that it wanted to examine the bomb fragments found within China.
In China, the death of four Chinese farmers Friday has stirred up sharp online criticism of the government and military, with some calling for action and others blasting the armed forces over its perceived inability to protect its citizens. Others have expressed dismay and highlighted the Chinese military’s persistent corruption problems.
Myanmar’s military has said ethnic Chinese rebel leader Peng Jiasheng is trying to seize control of the capital of the Kokang autonomous region. It has also raised concerns that Peng is receiving support from across the border in China.
Chinese authorities have flatly denied the allegation, stressing that they respect Myanmar’s sovereignty. Rebel fighters have also denied any links.