China, Myan­mar con­duct naval drills

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Li Ruo­han

The Chi­nese navy on Sun­day con­ducted its first joint ex­er­cise with Myan­mar’s navy as its fleet con­cluded a four-day visit to the coun­try. The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) navy fleet, com­posed of three do­mes­ti­cally made ships: mis­sile de­stroyer Changchun, mis­sile frigate Jingzhou and sup­ply ship Chaohu, left Yan­gon on Sun­day morn.The visit is part of a 180-day good­will visit that will tour more than 20 coun­tries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Ocea­nia. The fleet has al­ready vis­ited the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, and Malaysia, and is now en route for its next stop in Bangladesh.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based navy ex­pert, said the ships China sent are com­par­a­tively ad­vanced and ex­pe­ri­enced in es­cort, drill and pa­trol mis­sions, and the F11 Aung Zeya and UMS Anawrahta (771) sent by Myan­mar’s navy are also the coun­try’s two flag­ship war­ships in ser­vice.

Wu Qian, Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense spokesper­son, told the press on Satur­day that the drill would in­volve ex­er­cises in fleet for­ma­tion, fleet com­mu­ni­ca­tion and joint search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tions.

Wu added that China is will­ing to proac­tively im­ple­ment the sig­nif­i­cant con­sen­sus agreed by the two coun­tries’ lead­ers, en­hance com­mu­ni­ca­tion and deepen prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion, so as to pro­mote mil­i­tary ties and safe­guard re­gional peace and stability.

Mu­tual Trust

Pre­vi­ously, Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary ex­changes with China were “weak and mostly sym­bolic,” com­pared with China’s ex­changes with other South Asian and South­east Asian coun­tries, such as Malaysia, Pak­istan and Thai­land, Li said. How­ever, the first naval drill is a good sign of co­op­er­a­tion based on po­lit­i­cal mu­tual trust, he added.

“For Myan­mar, the drill could help the coun­try’s navy im­prove com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity, which is also a sig­nif­i­cant move to se­cure mar­itime safety in the Bay of Ben­gal,” Song Qin­grun, a re­search fel­low at the China In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, told the Global Times on Sun­day.

Mean­while, the drill is also nec­es­sary af­ter the China-Myan­mar crude oil pipe­line was put into op­er­a­tion last month, as it could fa­mil­iar­ize both coun­tries’ navy forces with the re­sponse to po­ten­tial haz­ards, Li said.

The pipe­line project, designed to carry 22 mil­lion tons of crude oil an­nu­ally, will help strengthen China’s po­si­tion in South Asia, and ease the coun­try’s de­pen­dence on the Strait of Malacca.

The drill comes one week af­ter Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping met Myan­mar’s State Coun­selor Aung San Suu Kyi, who at­tended the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion in Beijing on May 14-15.

The two had ex­pressed wishes for mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, mu­tual trust and ex­panded co­op­er­a­tion that will ben­e­fit the two peo­ples.

Good mo­men­tum

More di­ver­si­fied and deeper co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Myan­mar, cov­er­ing mil­i­tary, eco­nomic and cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion, has been seen in the past, and the good mo­men­tum will con­tinue, es­pe­cially ex­changes un­der the frame­work of the One Belt and One Road ini­tia­tive, Song said. China’s Min­istry of Com­merce signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing on the es­tab­lish­ment of a China-Myan­mar Bor­der Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Zone with the Min­istry of Com­merce of Myan­mar on Tues­day in Beijing. The zone will serve as a plat­form to im­ple­ment the ini­tia­tive.

The zone may strive to de­velop the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, es­pe­cially la­bor-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries such as tex­tiles, elec­tron­ics and com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ing, as it is the fastest and most con­ve­nient way to boost the lo­cal econ­omy and em­ploy­ment, said ex­perts.

Such co­op­er­a­tion, which ben­e­fits lo­cal peo­ple and lo­cal devel­op­ment, has gar­nered more un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance among the Myan­mese and is helping to ease skep­tics of the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive, who ques­tioned China’s in­creas­ing in­flu­ence in the re­gion with the wan­ing of Western in­flu­ence on Myan­mar.

China has no in­ten­tion to “con­trol” or “dom­i­nate” the re­gion, nor does it have the ca­pa­bil­ity to do so, and the net­work of high­ways, rail­roads, and mar­itime routes comes for the greater picture of serv­ing the ben­e­fits of the two peo­ples, Song said, adding that the good­will is un­der­stood by more peo­ple in Myan­mar.

“Un­like the West, China is next door; it’s re­source­ful and pre­pared to play the long game,” read an editorial by Ir­rawaddy.com on May 12.

The Chi­nese Am­bas­sador meets Myan­mar naval of­fi­cials. Photo: EPA

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