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Myanmar distances itself from influence of traditional ally China
JANUARY 23, 2013 07:19  
The U.S., Japan and India are trying to woo Myanmar, a resource-rich and strategically important country in Southeast Asia, while China is fretting over Yangon뭩 change of sentiment toward Beijing.

○ Signs of rift in ties with China

The Renmin Ribao, the official daily of the Communist Party of China, on Tuesday said a Chinese company is losing 2 million U.S. dollars every month due to a strike at a Myanmar copper mine, a joint venture between Chinese and Myanmar companies worth 1 billion dollars. In a rare criticism issued by a Chinese state-run media outlet, the report cited political slogans bashing the Chinese and blasted Myanmar뭩 investment environment.

Myanmar is considered one of China뭩 three allies with North Korea and Pakistan. The homepage of the Chinese Foreign Ministry describes ties with Yangon as a 밷rotherly relationship. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1950, the two neighbors have remains close.

Since a junta took power in 1988 and the U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Myanmar, China has provided large-scale economic assistance and investment to its ally and expanded its influence there significantly. China is also the largest investor in Myanmar, but the rise in Chinese influence has led to a backlash among Myanmarese.

Yangon began to distance itself from Beijing`s influence in 2011, when the Myanmar military dictatorship ended. Thein Sein, the country`s first democratically elected president, stopped a joint project to build a dam with China to protect the environment, which the junta in Yangon had carried out with 3.6 billion dollars in aid from Beijing.

According to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, the China National Petroleum Corp. on Monday said Mideast oil and natural gas could be flowing through pipelines from Myanmar to China in May 밿f everything goes as planned. The 1,100-kilometer pipelines form an ultra-large project linking the port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar to the city of Ruili in China`s Yunnan province. For China, the pipelines would reduce the travel distance of oil and natural gas by 1,200 kilometers. Though the venture is representative of economic cooperation between the two countries, there is little mood for celebration at a time when construction is near completion.

The Post quoted analysts as interpreting the Chinese oil company`s statement "if everything goes as planned" as an indication that the project worth 2.5 billion dollars still faced uncertainty.

○ U.S., Japan, India woo Myanmar

The U.S., Japan and India are speeding up efforts to embrace Myanmar. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent his first special envoy to Yangon to offer hefty financial assistance and corporate investment there. In spring last year, Japan forgave large debts Myanmar owed and provided low-interest, long-term loans.

The China Review News Agency said Tuesday that Abe is responding to China뭩 offensive through strengthening ties with Southeast Asia, and that Myanmar is at the core of such efforts.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited Yangon Monday to discuss bilateral military cooperation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Myanmar in May last year as the first Indian prime minister to visit the country in 25 years.

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