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China, Myanmar to work on border stability

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Yunnan's border with Myanmar was back in the news yesterday after officials from China and Myanmar agreed to work together on maintaining stability in the area. The agreement comes after fighting in August between the Myanmar army and an ethnic Chinese militia caused more than 10,000 refugees to spill into Yunnan.

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang met with Myanmar minister Tin Aung Myint Oo in Nanning yesterday, saying that the two countries should increase cross-border exchanges and cooperation to ensure stability in the area.

In August Myanmar's army took control of Kokong, which had previously been administered by a primarily ethnic Chinese militia outside of the control of the military junta that rules the country.

Many of the refugees who fled into Lincang prefecture on the Yunnan side of the border said that their businesses and homes had been looted by soldiers during the conflict. Fighting edged close to the border between the two countries and one Chinese soldier was killed on the Yunnan side.

In September relations between China and Myanmar had cooled noticeably, with Beijing taking the rare step of criticizing its strategic Southeast Asian ally for the violence and demanding that Chinese interests in the country be protected. Around the same time, a mass email calling upon Chinese volunteers to join the fight against the Myanmar army was circulating in China.

Yesterday's meeting in Nanning suggests that relations are back to normal between the two countries. For the ruling junta in Myanmar, China is a major source of revenue as well as political legitimacy and protection. China in turn benefits from access to Myanmar's vast energy resources and its Indian Ocean ports.

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