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US Envoy: Better Ties With Burma No Threat to China

Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (R), US special envoy to Myanmar Derek Mitchell (C), and US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner meet the media after a meeting, in Rangoon, Burma, November 2011. (file pho

The U.S. special envoy to Burma says Washington's improved relations with the southeast Asian country should not be seen as a threat to China.

Derek Mitchell told reporters Tuesday at the end of a visit to Beijing that the U.S. does not intend for its relationship with Burma to have any "negative influence on Burma-China relations."

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a landmark visit to Burma, where she said the U.S. would consider lifting sanctions if Burma's new nominally civilian government continues to make political reforms.

During the visit, a state-run Chinese newspaper said China is open to Burma seeking closer ties to the West, but not at the expense of Beijing's interests.

Some have speculated that Clinton's visit was meant to persuade Burma to align itself with the U.S. instead of its longtime ally China.

For the past two decades, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on the former Burmese military government because of its harsh human rights abuses, including military operations against ethnic groups and the jailing of up to 2,000 political prisoners.

The new Burmese government has made a series of political reforms in the past year, releasing about 200 political prisoners, easing some press restrictions and opening a dialogue with some of its critics, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.