Generals at Chinese Arms Fair before Obama Visit

By The Irrawaddy 20 November 2012

In the week prior to US President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Rangoon, two Burmese delegations traveled to China to strengthen old military and cultural ties with the nation’s largest trading partner.

A Burmese military delegation headed by Tatmadaw (armed forces) Deputy Commander-in-Chief Gen Soe Win visited China’s largest bi-annual defense exhibition in the southern Chinese coastal city of Zhuhai last Tuesday, according to photos circulated on Chinese microblogs.

The images show a delegation with at least three general-ranked officers touring the Ninth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition. Chinese state media has not identified Soe Win and other members of the delegation as visitors to the armaments trade fair. Similarly, no Burmese visitors were mentioned in a detailed list of foreign dignitaries released by the organizers at the last Zhuhai Airshow in 2010.

Two reporters for the national daily Global Times reported that the Burmese delegation “paid careful attention to the C802/C705/ FL-3000N defense missile system” in a blog post. The short-range surface-to-air missile launcher for ships, first revealed at the same airshow in 2008, has since been employed on China’s first aircraft carrier.

On Thursday, Soe Win, who is also commander of the Tatmadaw land forces, met with Gen Ma Xiaotian, Commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, at his headquarters in the Chinese capital Beijing. Both sides expressed their wish to deepen cooperation in air force technology and training, according to a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

Ma, 63, last visited the Burmese capital Naypyidaw in September, then as a Deputy Chief of Staff, where he held talks with incoming Vice-President Nyan Tun, a former Navy chief, and Commander-in-Chief Vice-Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

Ma, a long-time rising star within the Chinese armed forces, assumed command of the Chinese Air Force in October. The day before meeting Soe Win, Ma was elevated to the Chinese Communist Party’s all-powerful Central Military Commission.

On Friday, the Burmese delegation met with new Vice-Chief of Staff Lieut-Gen Qi Jiangu, and outgoing Minister of Defense Gen Liang Guanglie. The 71-year-old is widely expected to retire next spring.

Also on Friday, the Burmese delegation traveled inland to Xi’an, a hub for military aviation, where they were received by Maj-Gen Lin Miaoxin, political commissar of the Shaanxi military district, according to a report by the local Shaanxi Daily newspaper.

The military delegation returned to Naypyidaw on Monday, hours after President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with US President Barack Obama in Rangoon. On the same day, former Brig-Gen Aye Myint Kyu was in Beijing on his first trip as minister of culture to the neighboring country.

The 64-year-old discussed arrangements for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games hosted by Burma in December next year with his Chinese counterpart Cai Wu. In September, both countries fixed on an undisclosed framework agreement on “assistance and support” for the opening and closing ceremonies through China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd., a state-owned organizer of cultural events.

Aye Myint Kyu then met with Politburo member Liu Yandong at Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, along with Li Peng, the head of China’s General Administration of Sport.