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Two Chinese naval warships on a five-day visit to Myanmar


File photo of a Chnese naval warship

YANGON (AFP): Two Chinese warships have made a rare visit to Myanmar to spend several days promoting ties between the two allied countries' armed forces, according to a Chinese state media report.

The ships from the People's Liberation Army Navy docked at Yangon's Thilawa port on Sunday afternoon and will launch a series of exchanges with Myanmar's navy, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The five-day mission is aimed at promoting friendly relationships between the two armed forces of the two countries and exchange between the two navies," the report said.

The warships, which Xinhua said were welcomed with a "grand ceremony", have arrived as Myanmar prepares for its first election in twenty years on November 7, which has been widely criticised by activists and the West as a sham.

While numerous Western nations direct sanctions at Myanmar, which has been military, ruled since 1962, China is the junta's key ally, trading partner and an eager investor in the isolated state's sizeable natural resources.

In November China's top oil producer began construction of a pipeline across Myanmar.

The Asian economic powerhouse has long helped keep Myanmar afloat through trade ties, arms sales, and by shielding it from UN sanctions over rights abuses as a veto-wielding, permanent member of the Security Council.

In return, China is assured of a stable neighbour and access to raw materials from Myanmar, such as teak and gems.

Ties between the two countries frayed last year when fighting between Myanmar's isolated junta and rebel ethnic armies in the northeast drove tens of thousands of refugees into China, which issued a rare admonishment to Myanmar.

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