Suu Kyi kicks off China visit

From K J M Varma Beijing, Aug 17 (PTI) China today rolled out a red carpetwelcome to Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi whogently reminded Beijing about reviving its USD 3.6 billionhydroelectric dam project which was stalled over publicprotests for the past five years. Suu Kyi today kicked off a five-day visit to China, thefirst after her government took over power, during whichBeijing has decided to welcome her as Head of Government, inrecognition of her status as highest ranking political leaderof the country even through her designation is the StateCouncillor and Foreign Minister. "As is known to all, State Counsellor is ranked secondonly to the President among all the posts in the state organsof Myanmar," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang saidin a statement. It was decided after communication between the two sidesthat Premier Li Keqiang will invite Suu Kyi for the visit andholds talks with her, he said. She is also expected to meet President Xi Jinping. Suu Kyi’s visit comes roughly one week after MyanmarPresident U Htin Kyaw decided to form a new commission forreviewing all proposed hydropower projects on the IrrawaddyRiver, including the Myitsone Dam, which is jointly funded byChina and Myanmar, state-run Xinhua news agency said. It was suspended by former Myanmar military government in2011 following public protests . Although the move does not necessarily lead to a finalresumption of the project, it is a positive signal that thenew leadership in Naypyidaw is handling its relationship withBeijing in a prudent and pragmatic manner, it said. "For the record, the Myitsone Dam is a key bilateralcommercial project, while the Chinese backer of the projecthas already paid 60 per cent of the investment. Once theproject is completed and put into operation, Myanmar can makethe most of the Irrawaddy River’s hydropower resources, andexport electricity in return for handsome economic benefits, awin-win deal," it said. Chinese media regards Suu Kyi’s visit as a diplomaticvictory as she is visiting Beijing before visiting the US orEurope which backed her during her prolonged campaign againstrule by Beijing-backed military junta. "It will be the first visit to China by a leader ofMyanmar following the establishment of its new government, andthus is of great significance to promoting China-Myanmarcomprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in the newera," Lu said. "It is believed that the visit will help enhance strategiccommunication, deepen pragmatic cooperation, increase amityamong the people, further advance the bilateral relationshipand deliver more benefits to people from both sides," he said. This will be Suu Kyi’s second trip to China. She met withXi the first time through a party-to-party channel in June,2015 before Myanmar’s general election in November. PTI KJVUZM AKJUZM

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