Beijing distances itself from Sarkozy remarks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 November, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing responded coldly yesterday after French President Nicolas Sarkozy surprisingly credited the government with a key role in facilitating the release of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sarkozy said in a French television interview on Tuesday that President Hu Jintao helped persuade the Myanmese junta to release Suu Kyi, after Sarkozy raised the case with Hu when he visited France this month.

While Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei acknowledged yesterday that the two presidents had discussed the situation in Myanmar, among other regional issues, Hong avoided a direct answer when asked whether China had influenced Myanmar. Instead, he reaffirmed China's 'non-interference' policy.

'Respecting the choice of other countries to pick a road to development according to their own situations, and building relationships with other countries based on the foundation of the 'Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence' ... has always been China's position,' Hong said.

'Non-interference' is a cardinal principle of the 'Peaceful Coexistence' doctrine. 'We not only talk about these principles. We also follow them in action,' Hong said.

Sarkozy's is struggling in the opinion polls at home and has been seeking to revive support through a series of actions, including a cabinet reshuffle and this week's rare television interview. He spoke mainly on domestic issues, but also tried to claim credit for the release of Suu Kyi.

'On the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chinese president helped me because I spoke about this in person to Hu Jintao when he was visiting France in early November,' Sarkozy said.

If China did play a part in the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi last week, it would doubtless face further questions about its treatment of its own jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo .

China is not only a key trading partner with Myanmar, but a major arms supplier.

China's response to the release of Suu Kyi, delivered by Hong at a regular press conference on Tuesday, was reserved.

'We hope, and we believe, that Myanmar will continue to push forward the 'Seven-Point Road Map', maintain peace and stability, and push for ethnic reconciliation and socioeconomic development,' Hong said.