China Denies Weapons Transfers to Burma's Wa Rebels
January 28, 2013
by VOA News
China's embassy in Rangoon has rejected allegations Chinese weapons were transferred to Burma's ethnic United Wa State Army last year.
Chinese Spokesman Gao Mingbo posted a press release late Sunday on the embassy's website denying any weapons sales or transfers from China to Burma's ethnic armed groups.
The response was a reaction to a December report by the defense industry think-tank IHS Jane's Intelligence Review, outlining significantly advanced arms transfers to the ethnic rebel group. The report said they included, for the first time, at least 12 armored vehicles referred to as "tank destroyers."
VOA reported on the allegations last week and interviewed security analyst Anthony Davis, who wrote the Jane's report.
He said the build-up was not intended to cause instability in Burma, but rather to deter Burma's military from attacking the Wa like it is attacking the Kachin Independence Army. He said it also appeared to be a response to China's political setbacks in Burma.
China's statement says the defense think-tank's allegations are ill-founded and misguided. It says China's policy is to consistently respect Burma's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The statement goes on to disapprove of media reporting on the allegations, saying "misinformed reports" may cause confusion and misperception among the public in Burma and elsewhere.
China's embassy spokesman Gao sent an e-mail to VOA expressing strong disapproval of the report. However, he declined a phone interview on the subject.
Gao said China has always played a constructive role in promoting peace and facilitating dialogue toward resolving the conflict and would continue to do so.
The Wa are Burma's largest ethnic rebel group, estimated at up to 30,000 fighters. It is one of several ethnic militias that formed after the 1989 breakup of the Burmese Communist Party.
Military analysts say that despite its professed policy of non-interference, China has long been the largest supplier of weapons to the Wa, albeit unofficially. Beijing directly supported the communists and maintained relations with the newly formed rebel groups.
Burma signed a cease-fire with the Wa in the 1990s and allowed them to govern their own territory in northeastern Shan state. They turned it into one of Asia's largest methamphetamine production bases and are considered the region's largest drug-dealing organization.
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