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China FM to visit Myanmar this weekend: Junta spokesman

YANGON (AFP) – China’s Foreign Minister will travel to Myanmar this weekend for a regional meeting, a junta spokesman told AFP on Tuesday, in what will be Beijing’s highest-profile visit since the military seized power.

China is a major arms supplier and ally of the junta and has refused to label the power grab that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year a coup.

Wang Yi will visit Myanmar to attend a foreign ministers’ meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told AFP.

The spokesman said he was “not sure” whether a meeting between Wang and junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing would take place.

The China-backed forum gathers countries that share the Mekong river – known in China as the Lancang.

The foreign ministers of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will attend the July 2 to July 5 meeting, the spokes-man added.

Ferries transport passengers and vehicles across the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. PHOTO: AFP

With Western governments imposing sanctions following the coup and a violent crackdown on dissent, the junta has turned increasingly to allies including China and Russia.

In April, Beijing said it would help safeguard Myanmar’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity “no matter how the situation changes”.

The junta is otherwise increasingly isolated on the international stage, with Cambodian leader Hun Sen the only foreign leader to visit since the putsch.

In February, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister was barred from attending a gathering of his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over a lack of progress in defusing post-coup violence.

That same month, a United Nations expert on Myanmar said China and Russia were continuing to supply the military with weapons, including fighter jets and armoured vehicles.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.