Burmese FM to Attend US-Asean Summit

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Burmese FM to Attend US-Asean Summit

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sun Sep 05, 2010 3:08 pm


Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win attends the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Informal Consultations in Hanoi in July. (Photo: Reuters)

Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win will attend the US-Asean summit convened by President Obama later this month in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

The White House on Friday announced that Obama will host a meeting with leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean). Obama has invited the leaders of the 10 Asean member states as well the Asean secretary-general to join him for the second ever US-Asean leaders' meeting, it said.

Confirming that the top Burmese leader will not be attending the meeting, a senior US official said that no direct invitation was sent to Burma.

“The invitation went to the Asean chair [Vietnam], so we did not address an invitation to Burma directly,” the official told The Irrawaddy. “The Burmese have decided to send their foreign minister, Nyan Win.”

The White House said, at the first such meeting, held in Singapore in November 2009, Obama and the Asean leaders pledged to deepen cooperation in a number of areas of common concern, including trade and investment, regional security, disaster management, food and energy security, and climate change.

“The President looks forward to working with the leaders to assess the progress on these issues, to identify future efforts to strengthen US-Asean relations, and discuss multilateral approaches for greater regional cooperation,” the White House said.

It is understood that Obama will discuss the upcoming election in Burma, which the US has said lacks credibility.

Of late, the Obama administration has shown signs of adopting a stronger position against Burma; given that a year ago it had adopted a new policy of simultaneous engagement with and economic sanctions on Burma.

The US had two rounds of talks with the military junta, however top US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, expressed frustration over the response of the junta toward a credible and transparent election and the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Re: Burmese FM to Attend US-Asean Summit

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:19 pm


Burmese junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe (R) arrives at Beijing airport for a visit to China, on September 7. Burma's reclusive leader arrived in China on Tuesday for a five-day state visit ahead of elections on Nov. 7, at which the ruling junta's civilian proxies are expected to score a resounding victory. (Photo: Reuters)

Than Shwe Leaves on State Visit to China
By BA KAUNG

Junta chief Sen-Gen Than Shwe kicked off his five-day state visit to China on Tuesday just weeks ahead of Burma's planned elections on Nov. 7.

He leads a 34-member delegation including Prime Minister Thein Sein and the junta's No. 3 Shwe Mann, who resigned last month from his military post as army joint chief of staff, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.

Than Shwe is scheduled to meet both President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The visit is intended to shore up international support for Burma's election process and to expand economic and security ties between the two countries, the Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao should not embolden Burma's generals by ignoring the flawed November elections and the need for accountability," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director for the New-York-based NGO.

Last week, the Chinese ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that China hopes to see the Burmese election proceed smoothly along with the realization of democracy and economic development.

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, China adviser at the International Crisis Group, told Al-Jazeera on Tuesday, “China would like to see the [Burmese] government have better credibility at home and the generational changes these elections are likely to bring about because top leaders are going to step down.”

Besides the election issue, China and Burma are expected to hold discussions on border stability. Tension is growing between the regime and the largest armed ethnic group in Burma, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), based along the Sino-Burmese border.

Than Shwe will also visit the 2010 Shanghai Expo and Shenzhen in Guangdowng Province, which recently marked the 30th anniversary of China's first special economic zone. Media reports said that Chinese leaders may also talk with Than Shwe and his group about carrying out economic reforms.

“As far as we know, China has urged the Burmese government to carry out economic reforms at all levels,” said Aung Naing Oo, a Burma analyst in Thailand. “Despite its social and human rights issues, China has experienced economic growth that now surpasses even Japan's. I think the Burmese leaders would like to see this kind of economic growth while not letting go of their hold on power.”

Last month, during his meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, President Hu Jintao reportedly said that North Korea should follow China's example by opening its economy, even using such terms as “market mechanism.”

But, it will be difficult to know how seriously China will try to persuade Burmese leaders to carry out real economic liberalization. Since late 2009, the regime has sold off the country's key economic assets to its cronies in the name of privatization.

China has come under international criticism for supporting the junta. It is now Burma's third largest trading partner and investor after Thailand and Singapore, with bilateral trade reaching US $2.9 billion in 2009. During Wen Jiabao's visit to Burma in June, the two countries signed a series of bilateral agreements on energy, hydroelectric projects and aid.

Than Shwe's visit comes at a time when more and more governments express support for forming a United Nations commission of inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Than Shwe and his regime during the past 20 years.

“I think forming the commission of inquiry is impossible for now. But since Than Shwe is typically concerned about security issues, he would probably talk about this issue with the Chinese leaders, I think,” said Aung Naing Oo.

“The recent history of this [type of] commission also shows that its targets include incumbent rulers, not just those already deposed.”

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Re: Burmese FM to Attend US-Asean Summit

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:21 pm

China, the World and Burma
By KO KO THETT

Economist Jeffrey Sachs calls China “the most successful development story in world history.” Since its “awakening” following Deng Xiaoping's 1978 “black cat, white cat” speech urging the Chinese government to focus on economic development and let facts—not ideology—guide its path, China’s miraculous economic turnaround over the past three decades has awed and inspired the world.

From its founding in 1949 well into the late 1980s, Communist China had been widely considered a “revisionist state” that was not well-integrated into international society. But as its economy became more and more integrated into the global economy, its political role on the world stage also grew.
Chinese leaders have been made aware of the mutual interdependence between China and the rest of the world. China’s evolving role in global politics means that its traditional sovereignty-oriented foreign policy direction has also evolved into a more nuanced normative direction, even though Beijing may not become a “responsible power” or “a status quo state” overnight due to its vested interests in many authoritarian states, including Burma.

Well into the 1990s, Deng’s 24-character dictum—“Observe in a cold and peaceful fashion, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities and nurture timing, excel in maintaining a low profile and absolutely do not claim leadership”—appeared to be a handy strategic guideline for China’s foreign policy. But the addition of a new phrase in 2002 to the original 24 characters—‘‘make some contribution if you have something to contribute’’—marked a watershed in Chinese foreign policy making, implying that not only has China’s self-awareness of its role in global politics grown, but also its willingness to take on more responsibility in the international arena. China is no longer hiding behind the non-intervention shield: if necessary and when it can, it will make a contribution.

Further evidence of China’s self-consciousness may be seen in its sensitivity to descriptions of its own development. In 2002, Zheng Bijian, then deputy head of the Central Party School, first spoke of China's “peaceful rise.” The term soon caught on in Chinese policy circles, and then just as quickly fell out of favor, to be replaced by the less threatening term “peaceful development.” But what are the implications of this “peaceful development”?

China’s foreign policy shift over the past 20 years can be discerned in almost all of its interactions with the rest of the world. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), China cautiously refrained from making a major impact on any critical issue other than Taiwan and Tibet in the past. This markedly changed over the past decade. Partly out of its own security concerns, in 2006, Beijing condemned North Korean missile launches, then voted for a resolution condemning Iran over uranium enrichment and reprocessing. Beijing also went out of its way to reproach the Burmese regime for its handling of a mass protest in 2007.

In line with its growing military capabilities, China has become more assertive in the UNSC. It has also become more active in peacekeeping missions around the world. In the 1970s, China was not involved in any peacekeeping mission, but by 2009, it had deployed 3,362 troops in 13 UN peacekeeping missions all over the world, in addition to opening up new training facilities in Beijing and sending civilian police on the missions.

China's relations with the European Union have also markedly improved over the past decade, despite disagreement over the term “multipolarity” stressed by the Chinese and “multilateralism” emphasized by their European counterparts. By 2003, the EU-China cooperation had been labeled a “strategic partnership,” since proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, global security of energy supply, regional crises and the environment are seen by both the Chinese and their Europeans as common strategic issues.

As China policy makers seek to strike a multipolar balance of power, Brussels has become increasingly relevant to Beijing as a “fellow traveler” on the road to containment of American power. For the EU, the increasing importance of China as a trade and strategic partner resulted in a distancing of itself from its trans-Atlantic relations with the US.

The EU-China joint venture Galileo satellite project, which breaks the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system, has alarmed Washington. On the other hand, the fact that the EU (as well as the US) still maintains an arms embargo that has been imposed on China since the Tiananmen incident in 1989 remains a thorn in the side of Beijing.

But China's recent use of the term “multilateralism” and the fact that its entry into the World Trade Organization was made possible with a little help from its EU friends are seen as indications that China has become increasingly socialized in European politics.

Perhaps the most telling sign of China’s foreign policy shift can be seen in its ties with the US. Since 1978, China’s foreign policy has been commercially focused, but this began to shift markedly in the 2000s. The new Chinese foreign policy direction, especially towards the US, is most tellingly revealed in “The Beijing Consensus,” a paper by Joshua C. Ramo. “Rather than building a US-style power, bristling with arms and intolerant of others' world views, China's emerging power is based on the example of their own model, the strength of their economic system, and their rigid defense of... national sovereignty,” writes Ramo. The Chinese leaders maintain that ‘‘true success in strategic issues involves manipulating a situation so effectively that the outcome is inevitably in favor of Chinese interests.’’

To date, US-China economic ties have been the most crucial factor in the rise of China, to the extent that some analysts believe that the US is the country most responsible for fostering China’s growth. In security terms, even though the military capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are far smaller than those of the Pentagon, Washington fears that the Frankenstein's monster it has created could get out of hand. As Finnish China expert Matti Nojonen puts it, the Sino-US relationship is best characterized as a “Catholic marriage of convenience,” wherein the wife and the husband have different worldviews, different values, different understanding of the world order, and are often at loggerheads. Most importantly, however, as the Catholic marriage would have it, divorce is not possible.

In as much as Washington remains unclear about Beijing’s strategic ambitions, it is also undecided whether containment or engagement of China serves its best interests. In the region, Beijing has cautiously adopted security strategies to carefully counter the US influence.

Today, both the US and the PLA hold joint military exercises with the armed forces of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). This is not necessarily a bad sign. The fact that Beijing is attempting to make it more difficult for the East Asia actors to choose between one side or the other (China over the US, or vice versa) is seen as a stabilizing factor in the region. In this light, the Sino-US competition is often interpreted as “healthy,” contributing to a multipolar world order.

Finally, Beijing’s subtle shift of foreign policy can be discerned in its bilateral ties with Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iran, North Korean and Burma. China has been a staunch, loyal protector of some of the world's worst pariahs, but more recently, leaders from China’s repressive client states have learned that they can no longer count on Beijing for unconditional support. China’s relationship with Burma provides the most telling evidence of this.

Of late, Burma’s energy industry vis-à-vis Beijing’s concerns on the security of gas and oil pipelines under construction, Naypyidaw’s increasingly close ties with Pyongyang, its engagement with India and Asean, its playing along with the EU and the US overture of engagement, and China’s plan to open up its trade route to Southeast Asia and India via Burma, have all provided better bargaining chips for Naypyidaw in dealing with Beijing.

Yet, as China has become more integrated into global politics and the world economy, Chinese leaders are increasingly aware that they can no longer provide unconditional support to Burma. That was the message the Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan brought to Than Shwe in February 2008, a few months after China reproached Burma for its handling of the Saffron Revolution. As a result, China-Burma relation sank to all-time low until Premier Wen Jiabao’s “tie-strengthening” visit in June this year.

Beijing’s influence in Burma may be waning but its political leverage over Naypyidaw is still greater than that of the US and the EU combined. The real test of Beijing’s influence on Naypyidaw will be the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the cease-fire group that operates on the Burma-China border. The 20,000-strong UWSA, whose official language is Chinese, is under pressure from the Burmese regime to become a border guard force under Burmese military command. In response to growing tensions over the issue, the Chinese recently deployed 5,000 troops near the Wa territory. Instability in the region is the last thing Beijing wants, since it would mean another influx of refugees like the one that happened last year, when Burmese troops attacked the ethnic Chinese Kokang army, as well as a disruption of border trade and a possible threat to gas and oil pipelines being built.

China has numerous problems of its own. Yet, given China’s positive foreign policy dynamics, it is a fallacy to see China and Burma simply as bedfellow revisionist states.

Burma’s Than Shwe may be wooing Chinese favor in preparation for the 2010 election and the subsequent transition, but he is also aware that Beijing has always been prepared to work with any powers-that-be in Burma, be they authoritarian or democratic. China can exert its influence on Burma in a positive direction without undermining regional stability, and that is most likely the key message that EU politicians will deliver to their Chinese counterparts at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels in early October.

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