A Chinese official says he is “deeply shocked” by a government minister’s comments that Kachin peace talks planned for earlier this month were delayed because China refused to allow international observers to attend.
Mr Xiong Guofeng, secretary to the China’s ambassador to Myanmar, was responding to an April 19 report on Radio Free Asia in which Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry U Win Tun was quoted as saying that China opposes the presence of monitors from the United States, United Kingdom or United Nations at the talks.
“China seemed to be reluctant to invite representatives of the United Nations, the US and Britain to be present at the talks. China showed its reluctance to the Kachin side, not to the government side. The invitation was made by the Kachin side,” U Win Tun was quoted as saying.
Mr Xiong said the he was not authorised to comment on whether the minister’s comments would affect China’s role in the peace talks.
U Win Tun’s comments came after China rejected allegations from the Kachin Peace Network that the delay was over its reluctance to allow observers.
The talks were due to be held on April 6 in Myitkyina.
The Chinese embassy said in a statement on April 7 that it “feels regret for [the] lack of factual basis” in media reports in which the Kachin activist group alleged Chinese interference in the peace process.
“Chinese side is willing and always ready to render its humble support and assistance to the peace talk between the two sides in the future, as requested by the Myanmar government, helping them get long-term peace through peace talk,” the statement said.
But KIO spokesperson U La Nan backed up the Kachin Peace Network’s allegations.
“China proposed to us that it was proper to invite Asian observers. They are not willing to let Western countries sit at the round table and see what they are discussing in regards to the Kachin issue,” he told The Myanmar Times earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the Peace-talk Creation Group, a Kachin-based organisation that is helping to arrange the meetings, said on April 24 that no date had been set for the next round of talks.
The Chinese government has facilitated two rounds of peace talks since February in the border town of Ruili, with the most recent talks held on March 11.