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China urges Myanmar to step up anti-drug efforts

China has warned Myanmar of the dangers of the "flood" of narcotics crossing their common border.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 15:50 IST

China has urged Myanmar to step up efforts to fight drug trafficking and warned of the dangers of the "flood" of narcotics crossing their common border, state press said on Wednesday.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivered the message to his Myanmar counterpart, Soe Win, in talks in Beijing on Tuesday that opened the prime minister's five-day visit to China.

"At present the Sino-Myanmar border area is being flooded with drugs, posing a huge danger to the society and people," the China News Service quoted Wen as telling Soe Win.

"We must pay much attention to this and adopt strict and punitive measures."

"The Chinese side hopes to strengthen with Myanmar bilateral and multilateral cooperation and sign an anti-drug cooperation agreement at an early date."

Myanmar is one of the world's biggest producers of opium, with the jungles in the north of the country that border China one of the prime growing areas.

Myanmar's military rulers, who took control of the country in 1962, have long been accused by some foreign governments of condoning or having links to the drug trade.

But Soe Win reportedly said he would cooperate with China to curb the scourge.

As recently as 2004, Chinese police estimated that up to 80 per cent of the 70 to 80 tonnes of heroin produced annually in Myanmar and nearby countries transited China en route to global markets.

The trafficking has resulted in rising drug addiction and HIV/AIDS infections in China, especially in southwestern Yunnan province, which shares a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) border with Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The two nations have succeeded in curbing heroin trafficking through joint police work in recent years, Chinese press reports said.

However the manufacturing of methamphetamine in Myanmar has also risen as poppy fields are destroyed or planted with other crops.

Aside from discussing the drugs issue on Tuesday, the two nations signed a series of bilateral economic agreements, including pacts to build a hydropower plant in Myanmar and provide it with railway cars.

Wen also proposed stepping up joint efforts at energy and natural resource extraction in Myanmar, the China News Service said.

Trade with China is vital for Myanmar's military rulers amid enduring Western economic sanctions and increasing international isolation over the lack of democracy and widespread human rights abuses in the country.

Trade between the two countries last year reached 1.2 billion dollars, according to Chinese government statistics.

The two nations enjoy strong military ties, with China helping construct naval bases in Myanmar, which sits on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea near strategic global shipping lanes.

Soe Win met with President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, with both men praising progress in bilateral ties, including growing economic and trade cooperation.

The Myanmar leader departs Beijing on Thursday and will spend the rest of his trip in the northern province of Shaanxi and Guangdong in the south.

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 15:50 IST