Myan­mar me­dia says China backs anti-Ro­hingya of­fen­sive

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YAN­GON — Myan­mar state me­dia yes­ter­day quoted the Chi­nese Am­bas­sador en­dors­ing Myan­mar’s of­fen­sive against Ro­hingya Mus­lim in­sur­gents, in what could be an­other sign of a global split on the op­er­a­tion that has forced nearly 400,000 peo­ple to flee to Bangladesh.

The Myan­mar mil­i­tary of­fen­sive in the west­ern state of Rakhine was trig­gered by a se­ries of guer­rilla at­tacks on Aug 25 on se­cu­rity posts and an army camp in which about a dozen peo­ple were killed.

“The stance of China re­gard­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Rakhine is clear, it is just an in­ter­nal af­fair,” the state-run Global New Light of Myan­mar news­pa­per yes­ter­day quoted China’s Am­bas­sador, Mr Hong Liang, as telling top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

“The counter-at­tacks of Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces against ex­trem­ist ter­ror­ists and the gov­ern­ment’s un­der­tak­ings to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the peo­ple are strongly wel­comed.”

But at the United Na­tions in New York, China set a dif­fer­ent tone, join­ing a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ex­pres­sion of con­cern about re­ports of ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence and call­ing for im­me­di­ate steps to end it.

China com­petes with the United States for in­flu­ence in Myan­mar, which in 2011 be­gan emerg­ing from nearly 50 years of strict mil­i­tary rule and diplo­matic and eco­nomic iso­la­tion.

Ear­lier this week, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion called for pro­tec­tion of civil­ians. “We call on Burmese se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties to re­spect the rule of law, stop the vi­o­lence, and end the dis­place­ment of civil­ians from all com­mu­ni­ties,” the White House had said in a state­ment.

Hours af­ter the state­ment was re­leased, in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sions were laid bare when Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said that it sup­ported the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to “up­hold peace and sta­bil­ity” in the trou­bled re­gion.

“We hope or­der and the nor­mal life there will be re­cov­ered as soon as pos­si­ble,” he told a press brief­ing, adding that China con­demned the vi­o­lence in Rakhine. “We think the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should sup­port the ef­forts of Myan­mar in safe­guard­ing the sta­bil­ity of its na­tional de­vel­op­ment.”

The vi­o­lence in Rakhine and the ex­o­dus of refugees is the most press­ing prob­lem No­bel Peace lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since be­com­ing na­tional leader last year. Ms Suu Kyi is due to ad­dress the na­tion on Tues­day.

Crit­ics have called for her to be stripped of her No­bel prize for fail­ing to do more to halt the strife, though na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy is in the hands of the gen­er­als whose junta pre­vi­ously ran the coun­try.

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res and the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day urged Myan­mar to end the vi­o­lence, which he said was best de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing.

“When one-third of the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion had to flee the coun­try, could you find a bet­ter word to de­scribe Ro­hingya refugees walk­ing near the Naf River, sep­a­rat­ing Myan­mar and Bangladesh, as vil­lages burn in the dis­tance. Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures, 432 peo­ple have been killed, most of them in­sur­gents, since Aug 25. it?” he told a news con­fer­ence.

The gov­ern­ment says it is tar­get­ing “ter­ror­ists”, while refugees say the of­fen­sive aims to push Ro­hingya out of Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar.

Nu­mer­ous Ro­hingya vil­lages in the north of Rakhine have been torched but the au­thor­i­ties have de­nied that the se­cu­rity forces or Bud­dhist civil­ians have been set­ting the fires. They blame the in­sur­gents.

Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures, 432 peo­ple have been killed, most of them in­sur­gents, since Aug 25. The Bangladesh au­thor­i­ties say at least 100 bod­ies have been found in a bor­der river and on nearby beaches.

The 15-mem­ber UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil met be­hind closed doors on Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss the cri­sis for the sec­ond time since it be­gan and agreed to pub­licly con­demn the sit­u­a­tion.

The coun­cil “ex­pressed con­cern about re­ports of ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence dur­ing the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions and called for im­me­di­ate steps to end the vi­o­lence in Rakhine, de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion, re-es­tab­lish law and or­der, en­sure the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians ... and re­solve the refugee prob­lem”. AGEN­CIES “mean­ing­ful pre­lude” to con­tain­ing Guam. North Korea pre­vi­ously threat­ened to launch rock­ets over Ja­pan into the Pa­cific and to­wards the US ter­ri­tory.

“A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to (their) senses af­ter the launch of our ICBM over the Ja­panese ar­chi­pel­ago,” said a spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pa­cific Peace Com­mit­tee in yes­ter­day’s KCNA state­ment.

The North’s lat­est threats also sin­gled out Ja­pan for “danc­ing to the tune” of the US, say­ing it should never be pardoned for not of­fer­ing a sin­cere apol­ogy for its “never-to-be-con­doned crimes against our peo­ple”, an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Ja­pan’s wartime ag­gres­sion.

The KCNA state­ment also called for the breakup of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which it called “a tool of evil” made up of “money-bribed” coun­tries that move at the or­der of the US.

The re­marks about Ja­pan came sand­wiched be­tween threats against the US and South Korea. “Now is the time to an­ni­hi­late the US im­pe­ri­al­ist ag­gres­sors,” said the KCNA state­ment. “Let’s vent our spite with mo­bil­i­sa­tion of all re­tal­i­a­tion means, which have been pre­pared un­til now.”

The re­port said the South Korean “pup­pet forces are traitors and dogs of the US as they call for harsher ‘sanc­tions’ on the fel­low coun­try­men”, adding that the “group of pro-Amer­i­can traitors should be se­verely pun­ished and wiped out with fire at­tack so that they could no longer sur­vive”.

Still, South Korea’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry is con­sid­er­ing pro­vid­ing US$8 mil­lion (S$10.8 mil­lion) in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to North Korea through in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Unicef, re­ported Yon­hap News yes­ter­day, cit­ing the min­istry.

If the aid is ap­proved by the gov­ern­ment, it would be the first time in two years that Seoul has pro­vided such as­sis­tance to its north­ern neigh­bour. In 2015, the min­istry sent 11.7 bil­lion won (S$14 mil­lion) through in­ter­na­tional bod­ies.

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in came into power in May, he promised a new era of en­gage­ment with the North. But he has turned more hawk­ish in re­cent weeks, seek­ing stronger war­heads on bal­lis­tic mis­siles, step­ping up mil­i­tary drills, and em­brac­ing a mis­sile de­fence sys­tem he had ques­tioned.

US President Don­ald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be al­lowed to threaten the US with a nu­clear-tipped mis­sile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neigh­bour. Bei­jing in turn favours an in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the prob­lem.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity had reached a “high con­sen­sus” on try­ing to re­alise a peace­ful so­lu­tion. “We urge the rel­e­vant di­rectly in­volved par­ties to seize the op­por­tu­nity and have the po­lit­i­cal nerve to make the cor­rect po­lit­i­cal choice as soon as pos­si­ble,” she said at a reg­u­lar press brief­ing. AGEN­CIES

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