China fed up with Myanmar `foot-dragging` on reform: cables

Ref:China is fed up with the “foot-dragging” of the military junta in Myanmar on reform and fears the ruling generals can no longer protect its interests in the country, leaked US diplomatic cables show.

China is a key supplier of arms to its southern neighbour and a buyer of its natural resources. It has also been the junta`s main ally on the international stage, but the secret cables released by WikiLeaks tell a different tale.

“The Chinese clearly are fed up with the foot-dragging by the Than Shwe regime,” the top US diplomat in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, wrote in a January 2008 memo summarising a meeting with the Chinese ambassador at the time.

“The Chinese can no longer rely on the generals to protect their interests here, and recognise the need to broker some solution that keeps the peace,” she wrote, following mass street rallies in 2007 that ended in bloody violence.

“The Chinese ambassador no longer tried to defend the regime, and acknowledged that the generals had made a bad situation worse,” she said.

The cable added that after Chinese efforts to push for reform had ended “without much observable result”, Beijing was willing to work with the United States to get the generals back to the negotiating table.

Another cable from January 2008 from the US embassy in Beijing quoted a Chinese foreign ministry official as saying China wanted to see the junta take “bold measures” to improve the livelihood of Myanmar`s people.

The cable quoted the same official as saying China wanted to see “national reconciliation through dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy supporters”.

The 65-year-old opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate, who spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest, was released last month, days after a rare election that was widely panned by foreign observers as a sham.

The junta`s political proxy claimed an overwhelming victory in the elections — Myanmar`s first in two decades — amid opposition complaints of cheating and voter intimidation. Suu Kyi`s party boycotted the polls.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and has refused to recognise the results of elections in 1990 that Suu Kyi`s party won by a landslide.

Villarosa said the Chinese envoy to Yangon, Guan Mu, said the generals might be “more amenable to ceding power gradually” if they were “offered assurances that they would not lose their lives and could keep their economic interests”.

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