China on Monday unveiled its largest defence spending increase in three years, setting an 8.1 percent growth target this year, fuelling an ambitious military modernisation programme and making its neighbours nervous.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will soon visit Beijing, state media said on Monday, as Burma appears to draw closer to its northern neighbour China amid global criticism over an exodus of Rohingya refugees.
The European Union deals a blow to what had been increasingly warm ties between the bloc and Burma’s military, saying it will suspend any invitations to the Tatmadaw’s top brass and “review all practical defence cooperation,” as well as maintaining an existing arms embargo.
Western trade and investment in Burma is small, but there were hopes that reforms would prise open an economy stunted by international sanctions and decades of mismanagement under military rule. That now appears to be on hold.
China is ploughing money into Southeast Asia, but as welcome as all this economic activity is to the region, it could also present political problems, as countries confront China over issues such as its claims in the South China Sea.
Two deals to import 2,000 buses from China have caused a rift within the National League for Democracy, with Rangoon Division lawmakers questioning its cost and accusing Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein of cronyism and a lack of accountability.
China will offer support and assistance for Burma’s follow-up efforts after a military plane crashed off the Southeast Asian country’s southern coast with 122 people on board, Chinese state media said.
The failure of China’s efforts to bring India on board with its “new Silk Road” initiative shows the depths to which relations between the two countries have fallen over territorial disputes and Beijing’s support of Pakistan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday that China would continue to help the country achieve peace, and called for both sides to maintain stability on their shared border, state media said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday urged major multilateral institutions to join his new Belt and Road Initiative, stressing the importance of rejecting protectionism in seeking global economic growth.
China is looking to take a stake of up to 85 percent in a strategically important sea port in Burma, according to documents reviewed by Reuters, in a move that could heighten tensions over China’s growing economic clout in the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi has declined an invitation to meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington this week alongside top diplomats from Southeast Asia, citing other commitments, Burmese officials said on Tuesday.
China and Burma have reached an agreement on an oil pipeline between the neighbouring countries after almost a decade of talks, with the project due to start “very quickly,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin says.
President Barack Obama gathered with leaders from Southeast Asia on Monday to strengthen trade ties and form a common stance over the South China Sea in a summit that the White House hopes will solidify U.S. influence in the region.