Washington: Expressing concern over China`s role in Myanmar, especially as a channel for "illicit exports" from North Korea believed to be bound to that country, a key American Senator has said the US administration should question it.
Senator Jim Webb said while chairing a Congressional hearing that as the second-largest economy in the world "with a decidedly nondemocratic political system", China wields great influence in Myanmar.
"With the construction of gas and oil pipelines, hydropower development and additional assistance, China has attempted to purchase influence through investments that support the Burmese government and provide China with strategic access to the Indian Ocean," Webb said.
He said Chinese leaders may be concerned with the ethnic conflict on their border, but they have yet to take constructive steps to encourage a meaningful political reconciliation with Myanmar.
Before Senator John McCain visited Myanmar last month, Webb was the only US lawmaker to have visited the country in 2009 in over a decade.
"Even more troubling has been China`s role as a transshipment point for illicit exports from North Korea which many observers believes may be bound for Burma," he said.
"While there are legitimate concerns about Burma`s relationship with North Korea, the administration has yet to question China`s role in these exports. I believe we should be more consistent and responsible in our rhetoric particularly on an issue of such importance," Webb said.
He said given this political and regional complexity, the nominee to become the first US Coordinator on Myanmar faces a difficult task. "Yet this position has the opportunity to play a positive and continuing role in ending the isolation of the Burmese people and promoting democratic development through deeper and more sustained, direct engagement with the government and civil society," the Senator said.
He said travelling to Myanmar in 2009, he met pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and was also the first and only American official ever to meet the country`s leader General Than Shwe.
"Following this visit, there were, in my view, many opportunities for follow-on activities by others in our government and in theirs that could bring about a change in our policy toward Burma.”
"Our sanctions-led approach had produced no meaningful results in the country except to further isolate the people. I believe that we need to find a way to break this cycle," he argued.