PLA drill to safe­guard China’s in­ter­ests

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

China started a live-fire drill in South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince near theMyan­mar bor­der on Tues­day af­ter hav­ing no­ti­fiedMyan­mar in ad­vance. The mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, which in­volves troops from the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and Air Force, is in ac­cor­dance with ac­cepted in­ter­na­tional prac­tice and the agree­ment reached be­tween China and Myan­mar, the PLA Cheng­duMil­i­tary Area Com­mand said onMon­day.

China’s For­eign­Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said the mil­i­tary ex­er­cise is “a regular ac­tiv­ity within the scope of the mil­i­tary’s mission”. Since the mis­judged bomb­ings byMyan­mar Air Force pur­su­ing rebels in north­ernMyan­mar in March and­May killed some peo­ple in Yun­nan, it was ex­pected that China would take ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to pro­tect its cit­i­zens living in ar­eas near its bor­der with­Myan­mar.

De­spite all the diplo­matic ef­forts to rebuild trust be­tween the two coun­tries, in­clud­ingMyan­mar For­eignMin­is­terU Wun­naMaung Lwin’s visit to Bei­jing in April when he of­fi­cially apol­o­gized for the March bomb­ing, the China-Myan­mar bor­der area is still restive. For in­stance, the bomb­ing onMay 14 in Yun­nan’s Zhenkang county re­port­edly in­jured at least five Chi­nese na­tion­als.

Re­gard­ing the clashes be­tweenMyan­marese gov­ern­ment forces and the north­ern rebel group, called theMyan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army, China has made it clear that un­der no cir­cum­stances should its sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity be vi­o­lated, or its peo­ple or their prop­er­ties harmed. In this sense, theMyan­marese gov­ern­ment, who now plays a dom­i­nant role in the do­mes­tic con­flict, should shoul­der the ma­jor re­spon­si­bil­ity for the re­cent bomb­ings.

Em­pha­siz­ing its pol­icy of non-in­ter­ven­tion in­Myan­mar’s in­ter­nal af­fairs and hop­ing thatMyan­marese peo­ple would reach a peace­ful un­der­stand­ing to end the vi­o­lence, China has main­tained re­straint to avoid com­pli­cat­ing the al­ready volatile sit­u­a­tion in north­ernMyan­mar. More im­por­tantly, China re­fuses to sup­port ei­ther side in the con­flict, though even its slight­est in­volve­ment could make a world of dif­fer­ence forMyan­mar.

How­ever, ifMyan­mar’s in­ter­nal con­flict con­tin­ues to spill over into its ter­ri­tory, China will be given to un­der­stand that nei­ther theMyan­marese gov­ern­ment nor the north­ern rebel group re­spects China’s legal in­ter­ests and its re­quest to main­tain peace. In fact, China is hold­ing the mil­i­tary drill to warn both sides en­gaged in theMyan­marese con­flict not to vi­o­late its ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity.

Un­like other Chi­nese drills, no spe­cific goal or the end date of the on­go­ing drill in Yun­nan has been an­nounced, hint­ing that Bei­jing could ad­just them and deploy more troops depend­ing on the ac­tual sit­u­a­tion along the China-Myan­mar bor­der. In other words, a regular mech­a­nism for safe­guard­ing China’s bor­der se­cu­rity could come into be­ing shouldMyan­mar’s in­ter­nal con­flict worsen.

More­over, the PLA’s train­ing pro­gram near the China-Myan­mar bor­der high­lights the im­por­tance of China’s mil­i­tary and diplo­matic re­form at a time when se­cu­rity threats in its neigh­bor­hood are chang­ing. China needs a prag­matic mil­i­tary pol­icy to en­able its mil­i­tary to im­me­di­ately re­spond to emer­gen­cies and com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions such as the one along its bor­der with­Myan­mar.

In the long run, po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions and diplo­matic ma­neu­vers will play a vi­tal role in pro­mot­ing healthy and sta­ble China-Myan­mar re­la­tions. But that does not mean China will un­con­di­tion­ally and in­def­i­nitely de­sist from us­ing its mil­i­tary to tackle an emer­gency. To make its bor­ders per­ma­nently peace­ful, China has to pay equal at­ten­tion to the above so­lu­tions, not least be­cause they sup­ple­ment each other. The au­thor is a re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Strat­egy at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

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