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Isolated Burma Turns to China for Support

Burma's prime minister is in China seeking support for his isolated country from one of its few allies.

Western nations have imposed sanctions on the country because of its human rights abuses, but as Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, Beijing continues to support the government in Rangoon.

Experts say Burmese Prime Minister Soe Win is in Beijing seeking assurances of continued Chinese diplomatic and economic support for Burma's beleaguered military government.

Mohan Malik is a specialist on China's Asian relations at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. He says Chinese support is crucial to Burma's military rulers: "The military government remains heavily dependent on China for economic, military, and diplomatic support. … China has a veto in the UN Security Council. So, the military junta in Rangoon counts on Beijing to bail it out in case the UN Security Council decides to take some action against Burma."

China has refused to support sanctions against Burma, and the two countries are due to sign several trade and economic agreements during the visit.

Speaking at a regular press briefing Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, repeated China's position that questions about human rights concerns are Burma's internal affair: "China believes that things that happen in Burma are the domestic affairs of Burma itself. China has the principle of non-interference of other countries' internal affairs. We believe the issues in Burma should be solved through negotiation between the government and the people."

The United States and the European Union have already placed their own sanctions on Burma. U.S. officials last week said they are contemplating introducing a UN resolution regarding human rights abuses in Burma.

The current military government seized power in 1988 after violently suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations. It allowed a general election in 1990, but then refused to recognize the results after a landslide victory by the National League for Democracy, the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The government has detained Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, on and off for the last ten years, despite widespread international calls for her release.