Myanmar media says China backs anti-Rohingya offensive
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