BEIJING - China hopes to see a ceasefire between Myanmar government forces and Kachin ethnic minority rebels, it said Monday after fresh fighting broke out near its southern border at the weekend.
The clashes came despite President Thein Sein offering peace talks to end Myanmar’s last active civil war, which could see large numbers of displaced people fleeing into China if the fighting escalates.
Beijing’s vice foreign minister Fu Ying visited Myanmar at the weekend for talks with Thein Sein, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, saying they “agreed to maintain peace and stability of the border areas between them”.
He added at a regular briefing: “China hopes that relevant parties can realise a ceasefire and start peace negotiations so as to restore peace and stability in the China-Myanmar border areas.”
China wanted to “play a positive and constructive role” in the process, he said.
“We sincerely hope that relevant parties can resolve this issue through peace negotiations... so that border areas can become a bridge of friendship and cooperation of the two countries.”
The military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades had a close relationship with China, but since taking power in March 2011 the country’s new government has introduced wide-ranging reforms and seen ties with the West improve dramatically.
The recent use of air strikes against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) triggered growing international concern, but the rebels have not announced any ceasefire of their own, saying negotiations should also address their demands for greater political rights.
Rebels said Sunday that the military was battling to retake control of a strategically important hilltop just several kilometres away from the KIA headquarters in Laiza, and was using artillery shells and ground forces.
Laiza is next to the frontier and according to Chinese state-run media officials in the neighbouring province of Yunnan say they are planning camps for 10,000 people in case large numbers flee the conflict.
Tens of thousands have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.