FM crams for testing China trip
Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is preparing for possible tough questions over the Myitsone dam project and the country’s peace process during her visit to Beijing later this week.
FOREIGN Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to be poring over her briefing books today as she prepares for what could be a testing visit to China from August 17 to 20. Two issues in particular are likely to be on the agenda: the future of the suspended Myitsone dam project and the peace process, both of more than passing interest to Beijing.
U Kyaw Zeya, director general of the political department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, briefed reporters on August 12 on the government’s achievements over the past 100 days in foreign affairs, electricity and energy, and border affairs.
“We won’t know what China is going to say until we get there. But if they raise these matters, we will have a response prepared,” he said. The Chinese have a major stake in the Myitsone issue, having been involved with it for the past 10 years.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi raised the topic of Myitsone when he met with his Myanmar counterpart in Nay Pyi Taw in April. At that time, Myanmar made no response, according to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s own briefing to the media.
U Kyaw Zeya said, “China will raise the subject because it is of major interest to them. We’re still discussing what we should do about the project. If the Chinese raise it, we will discuss it. We have prepared a response.”
The government has now formed a commission to consult with local residents and others, and to make recommendations as to how to proceed (see related story below right).
The electricity and energy ministry’s permanent secretary U Htain Lwin said the project awaited a resolution. “The dam project was suspended by the previous government following popular objections on the grounds of its environmental impact. Any decision to cancel the agreement must be taken at the national level,” he said.
Observers will also follow with interest any discussion with China on Myanmar’s peace process. The country’s long border with Myanmar makes the stability of its southern neighbour a matter of great importance, prompting Beijing to send observers to Myanmar’s peace talks. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be prepared to discuss the matter with her hosts, said U Kyaw Zeya.
Asked why the foreign minister decided to visit China before visiting the United States, he said she had made her decision on the basis of options proposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We submitted our suggestions and she made her decision. We take our relations with neighbouring countries very seriously,” he said.
The foreign minister, who is also state counsellor, accompanied President U Htin Kyaw on a visit to Laos, the rotating chair of ASEAN, in April. However, she sat out the president’s visit to the Russia-ASEAN Summit in Russia.
The state counsellor is scheduled to visit the United States in October.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw on April 5.