March 26, 2015

Action in Yunnan near border with Burma

South China Morning Post The People's Liberation Army conducted a night live-fire drill in the border province of Yunnan as fighting continued between government troops and ethnic Chinese rebels in neighbouring Myanmar, according to mainland media. by Andrea Chen

'China Central Television's military channel reported on Tuesday night that a brigade from the Yunnan-based 14th Army Corps "recently" carried out a large-scale live-fire drill in mountain areas in the west of the province to test the troops' "combat readiness at night".

'Footage of the drills showed soldiers equipped with flamethrowers conducting various exercises under intense artillery fire.

'The report did not disclose other details of the exercise.

'The drills came after China claimed earlier this month that a Myanmese warplane dropped a bomb on a sugarcane field in the province, killing five residents and injuring eight.

'Myanmar's presidential office denied that one of its warplanes strayed into Chinese territory during the fighting with the rebels in the border region of Kokang. A senior official from the office told the Associated Press that the bombing could have been the work of a group seeking to create confusion.

'Shen Shishun , director of the department of Asia-Pacific security and cooperation at the China Institute of International Studies, said the drill was a message to both the Myanmese government and Chinese residents in the area that China's forces had stepped up defences.

'"Even though the China-Myanmar border is peaceful at the moment, the defence forces are preparing for the worst, that the conflict across the border will get out of control," Shen said.

'He said the drill was also aimed at Chinese residents who accused Beijing of not taking enough action after the bombing.

'Government forces in Myanmar are fighting ethnic Chinese rebels in Kokang. China's Global Times said last week that some of the battles took place as close as 1km from the border - so close that motorists on the Chinese side pulled over to watch the action.

'The PLA had boosted its presence in the province, and artillery and military aircraft would launch exercises there, the paper said.

'It also said that fighter jets had been scrambled to track, monitor, warn and chase away Myanmese military planes flying close to the border.

'Foreign Minister Wang Yi also visited Yunnan last week for talks with local officials about border security, Yunnan Daily said.'

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