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China's top foreign policy official to visit Myanmar


China’s top diplomat is planning to visit Myanmar this week, according to the Chinese Embassy in Yangon.

The giant to Myanmar’s north appears to be planning a charm offensive as it looks to improve its access to the Indian Ocean.

Yang Jiechi of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs will visit Myanmar, Spain and Greece from Sept. 1 to 4.

Yang accompanied President Xi Jinping on his trip to Naypyitaw in January. He also visited Singapore and South Korea in August. The Yusof Ishak Institute said Yang is senior to the foreign minister, Wang Yi. It said he usually carries out a specific task during his foreign trips.

Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy: “He is the third most important person in the Foreign Affairs Commission after Xi and Li Keqiang, premier of the State Council of China. He is an adviser to Xi and the visit is an important step in bilateral relations.”

He said the trip would aim to enhance cooperation on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which is a part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

During his trip in January, Xi called for “concrete planning and implementation” of bilateral projects like the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, the China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone and New Yangon City as three pillars of the CMEC. Both sides signed 33 memorandums of understanding, agreements, exchange letters and protocols during the trip.

“The reason behind the trip may be to take the upper hand in Myanmar’s economy after COIVD-19,” Dr. Yan Myo Thein said.

In 2013, as a state councilor, Yang met then-president U Thein Sein in a trip to Naypyitaw which purportedly aimed to enable further high-level visits and enhance strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation and ensure the smooth implementation of major bilateral projects.

He also met then vice president U Nyan Tun, house speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and members of various political parties.