Chinese military stages drills near restive Myanmar border
China’s army troops have held drills near its border with Myanmar following weeks of clashes between armed ethnic rebel groups and Myanmar’s military.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, China’s infantry, artillery and air force took part in Tuesday’s exercise in the country’s south.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces on Tuesday staged an air-ground, live-fire drill in south China, close to the border with Myanmar,” Xinhua said.
It also noted that the drills were part of annual training.
Meanwhile, Fang Xin, a senior Chinese military Colonel said that the drill “demonstrated the PLA’s resolve and will in safeguarding national security” and “protecting people’s safety and their property”.
The developments come as thousands of people have fled to China in recent months to escape the battles in Myanmar’s restive borderlands.
Dozens of people have died in more than three months of clashes between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed groups in the troubled region.
Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, has recently called for an immediate ceasefire between the two warring sides and urged them to “exercise restraint” to “prevent further escalation and take practical and effective measures to restore peace and stability to the border areas.”
This month Chinese authorities said that bullets and artillery shells had entered Chinese territory from a town in Myanmar bordering China. The shelling injured one Chinese resident and damaged some property.
China staged similar exercises in 2015 when several of its nationals were killed by stray rockets fired by Myanmar’s military during a surge in violence in the Kokang border region in northeastern Shan state. A ceasefire was announced between the army and rebel groups two weeks later.
Kokang has seen repeated bouts of heavy fighting between the army and a band of well-armed ethnic minority militias since November 2016.
Fighting in Shan and the northern state of Kachin along the Myanmar-China border is intensifying day by day.
The clashes have threatened the second round of peace talks slated for later this month.
Last August, delegates from some rebel groups stormed out of the first round of the peace talks with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over a spat about their accreditation.
The government’s efforts to expand a ceasefire signed with some ethnic rebel groups in 2015 have faltered.
Observers believe Beijing holds significant sway over the ethnic fighters and has a key role to play in peace talks that Suu Kyi has tried to revive since coming to power in 2015.