Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in China for first visit

media captionJonah Fisher looks at the significance of Aung San Suu Kyi's trip

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's opposition leader, has arrived in China on her first visit at a time of tension between the two countries.

Ms Suu Kyi will meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, but no other details have been provided.

Relations between the countries have cooled in recent years, partly because of violence near their mutual border.

Myanmar has been fighting rebels in its eastern Kokang region, which borders China's Yunnan province.

China is concerned about violence spilling over and has sent patrols to the border in response.

image source, Reuters
image captionRebels have been fighting in Myanmar's Kokang region, near the border with China

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that Ms Suu Kyi's visit would "move forward China and Myanmar's friendly and co-operative relations".

He added that China hoped Myanmar "would answer to relevant requests put in by China, stop the warfare, ease the tension, and restore peace, stability and normal order to the China-Myanmar border area at an early date."

'Overwhelming influence'

This visit is meant to improve ties between Myanmar's opposition leader and China but her comments will be closely scrutinised.

Many are already calling on Ms Suu Kyi to recognise her similarities to fellow Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo during her visit.

The Chinese dissident and writer is serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power".

But authorities said on Wednesday they would not release him as there was "no reason to alter the judgment".

Analysts say the government was furious after he was awarded the prize a year after being imprisoned, and will not take kindly to any criticism from Ms Suu Kyi.

Analysis: Celia Hatton, BBC News, Beijing

image source, AP

When China's state news agency announced Aung San Suu Kyi's imminent arrival in Beijing, she was described as a parliamentarian, the leader of a key political party. The fact that she is also a Nobel Peace prize laureate did not merit a mention.

And that hints at the political risk that Beijing is taking by hosting Ms Suu Kyi. Her presence will highlight the notable absence of China's own Liu Xiaobo.

Mr Liu is one of the principal authors of a petition calling for democracy and an end to one-party rule in China. Just like Ms Suu Kyi, he is being punished for speaking out against authoritarian rule.

Mr Liu's wife, who lives under strict house arrest, said she was "very, very happy" to hear about Ms Suu Kyi's visit. But she declined the BBC's request for an interview, explaining over the phone: "I am under close watch from the government and comments I make can delay my visits to Xiaobo and affect how my family is treated (by police)."

While Myanmar's military junta was under Western sanctions and Ms Suu Kyi was under house arrest, China remained a loyal ally.

But since reforms were introduced in 2011, the government of President Thein Sein has allied itself closely with the US, although China continues to help develop major infrastructure projects in Myanmar.

Correspondents say that a democratic Myanmar is a much harder partner for China, but given that Ms Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party may do well in forthcoming elections, Beijing wants to build a relationship with a woman whose politics it deplores.

Ms Suu Kyi is expected to play a key role in the presidential elections this November. But she is unlikely to run as the constitution blocks her from standing because her husband and children are foreign citizens.

More on this story