China launches military drills near Myanmar border

Beijing began military exercises near the Myanmar border on Saturday (November 25th). This is a show of force, as Myanmar has been in the grip of fierce fighting between the junta and insurgent movements in regions close to China for the past month.

China-Myanmar border in Ruili, western Yunnan province (illustration photo). AFP - NOEL CELIS

By: RFI Follow


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With our correspondent in Beijing, Stéphane Lagarde

Chinese television did not show images of these so-called "live-combat" exercises. And the statement from the People's Liberation Army's Southern Theater Command, read on air, does not specify the duration of the operation, the number of soldiers or the amount of equipment mobilized.

The drills on Myanmar's border are part of an annual military training plan, the statement said. They are intended to test the capabilities of the troops, control and seal the border, and deploy firepower against the enemy. That's the official message.

For the rest, everyone will have noticed that these major manoeuvres take place the day after the rebels' advance. The insurgent coalition has seized dozens of military positions and a strategic city where trade with China passes.

The aim for the rebels is to cut the cord between China and the junta, which has been starved of cash, which has forced Beijing to react. China is keen to defend its strategic interests, including gas fields exploited by Chinese. And it worries about instability at its margins.

Beijing has called on its citizens to move away "as soon as possible" from the clashes that have intensified in northern Myanmar. An area close to the Chinese border is also being fled en masse by civilians in Myanmar who, according to the UN, are estimated to have left their homes, raising fears of a new influx of refugees.

Read alsoBurma: nationalist activists organize an anti-Chinese demonstration in Yangon

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