Asia-Pacific

China Premier Wen Jiabao boosts ties in Burma visit

Burmese Prime Minister U Thein Sein and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Naypyitaw, Burma (3 June 2010)
Image caption Wen Jiabao said his visit had already improved ties between the countries

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has signed a series of bilateral agreements with Burma on the second day of his visit to the military-run country.

Mr Wen, the first Chinese premier to visit Burma in 16 years, held talks with Gen Than Shwe and other senior figures in the ruling junta.

His visit comes as Burma prepares for its first elections in 20 years.

China has strong ties with Burma but has been accused of ignoring rights issues in pursuit of its resources.

At a meeting in the capital Naypyidaw, Mr Wen told Gen Than Shwe the visit had already led to an improvement in ties between the two countries, Chinese state media reported.

The two men "reached consensus on many issues and signed a lot of major deals which marks another step forward," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a news conference in Beijing.

The relationship has in the past been impaired by disagreements over border security.

But Mr Wen said China "values its good neighbourliness with the Myanmar side from a strategic perspective", said Ms Jiang.

"We are willing to deepen our friendship with Myanmar and expand co-operation, always acting as a good neighbour, good friend and good partner," Mr Wen was quoted as saying.

State media said the deals signed included agreements on energy, hydroelectric projects and aid.

China is a key ally and trading partner of Burma, and is keen to secure access to the country's energy resources.

Burma's military leaders say they plan to hold the first elections since 1990 this year.

But the laws under which the polls will be held have been widely criticised.

And key pro-democracy leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi have been prevented from playing any role in the election.

BBC China analyst Shirong Chen says Burma needs a strong relationship with China to help it deflect the international sanctions put in place over its human rights records.

But, our correspondent adds, China also needs access to Burma's rich energy resources and, as border stability improves, easy access to the Indian Ocean and through it, vital Middle Eastern and African markets.