China looks to up ‘soft control’ of Myanmar: report


China must increase its “soft control” of Myanmar to fulfill its dream of building a new Pacific Fleet and an Indian Ocean Fleet, according to a commentary from the Beijing-based Sina Military.

According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the 14th Army Corps of the People’s Liberation Army recently began a large-scale military exercise in the western region of southwest China’s Yunnan province, near the China-Myanmar border. The exercise comes amid increasing tensions between the two countries due to the escalating violence between the Myanmar government and ethnic rebel forces, which has already spilled into China after a stray shell flattened a house and a wayward bomb killed four Yunnan farmers earlier this month.

Sina Military believes Beijing is sending a message to Naypyidaw — which began a renewed assault on the rebels’ Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army in the self-administered Kokang region on March 27 — through the exercise and also by leaking reports that it is tightening border restrictions and placing artillery units and air defense troops on standby.

For China, increasing its long-term “soft control” of Myanmar is important for both economic and military reasons. Unlike neighbors such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Bhutan, Myanmar offers a key route to the Indian Ocean, which is why China aims to eventually rent land from Myanmar to build a PLA naval base there, the report added.

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