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Li urges Myanmar to ensure projects

By Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

08:11, June 14, 2012

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday urged Myanmar to ensure the smooth implementation of some major cooperation projects between the two neighbors and protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.

Li's remarks came against the background of Myanmar President Thein Sein's abrupt decision to call off the construction of a $3.6 billion Chinese-led dam project in his country last August.

"The two sides should adhere to the principle of equal treatment, eliminate interferences and properly handle problems," Li told Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin as they met at Zhongnanhai, the central government compound.

China called for talks with Myanmar after the government suspended the dam project in Myitsone, Myanmar's largest hydropower project, citing complaints from local residents and opposition parties.

Myanmar's then military government proposed the dam in 2006 and signed a contract in 2009 with the Myanmar Asia World Company and China Power Investment Corp to build it.

Wunna Maung Lwin said his country attaches great importance to the ties with China and cherishes the close friendship.

He also said Myanmar will "actively push forward cooperation on major projects and continue to support China on issues concerning China's key interests", according to a news release from Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Myanmar's top diplomat is paying an official visit to China from Saturday to Thursday, as the guest of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Zhang Xuegang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Li's remarks should not be interpreted as being directed only at the dam project but also at pushing for Myanmar to build a healthy investment environment for Chinese enterprises.

The Chinese mainland is currently the largest investor in Myanmar, having dedicated $13.95 billion as of April, according to the Myanmar embassy.

Among the large ongoing projects between the two is the 2,000-kilometer gas pipeline that runs through the heart of Myanmar and ends at Kunming in southwestern China's Yunnan province.

The dam is only a single case, but reflected deeply-rooted problems, according to Zhang. "In this case Myanmar should at least communicate with China and avoid sudden changes on such a big project."

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