China to Conduct Military Exercises Near Kokang Territory

By Sean Gleeson 1 June 2015

RANGOON — China’s military will on Tuesday conduct a live-fire drill around the border with Burma’s restive Kokang region, according to the country’s state-run media.

A brief report carried by the Xinhua News Agency on Monday morning was followed by an announcement on China’s Ministry of Defense website, confirming a joint air-ground training exercise around a 200-kilometer (124-mile) stretch of the border, between the convergence of the Manxin and Salween rivers and ending at the highway into the Burmese border town of Chin Shwe Haw.

The exercises will be conducted in the area of the border that directly abuts Yunnan province’s Lincang administrative region, where in March a bomb dropped by a Burma Air Force plane killed five Chinese civilians in a sugarcane field. The Chinese government issued a diplomatic rebuke in response to the incident and the military scrambled fighter jets to the border.

In May, artillery fire originating from inside Burma landed across the border and wounded five people. Min Aung Hlaing, the Burma Armed Forces commander-in-chief, told Chinese ambassador Yang Houlan that Kokang rebels were to blame for the attack.

The Ministry of Defense report said that Burma had been informed of the training exercise. The Chinese Embassy in Rangoon and Burmese presidential spokesman Ye Htut could not be reached for comment on Monday.

On the other side of the border from where Tuesday’s military exercises will take place is Laukkai Township, where fighting broke out between Burma’s military and the ethnic Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in February.

China has distanced itself from the rebel army in response to accusations by the Burma military, in the first weeks of the conflict, that it had provided shelter and support to the MNDAA rebels. The Laukkai area remains subject to martial law.