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China's Xi holds talks with Myanmar president

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar's leader Thein Sein held talks Friday as the relationship between the two countries adapts to dramatic political changes.

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar's leader Thein Sein held talks Friday as the relationship between the two countries adapts to dramatic political changes.

The two shook hands outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People and inspected an honour guard as Thein Sein -- a former general -- was given full military honours, before the pair went inside to begin their talks.

Xi noted the four-day trip is Thein Sein's fifth visit to China and third official journey.

"This fully demonstrates the importance you place on developing China-Myanmar relations," Xi said.

Thein Sein thanked Xi for inviting him to China and noted the countries' traditionally close ties.

"The main purpose of this visit to China is to promote the consolidation and development of already existing friendly and cooperative bilateral relations," Thein Sein said.

The pair later witnessed signing ceremonies for several agreements, including on the mutual establishment of cultural centres and boosting cultural heritage.

Beijing was a traditional supporter of Myanmar for decades when the resource-rich Southeast Asian country was diplomatically isolated as human rights suffered under military rule.

Myanmar's ruling generals were shielded from some international criticism by China's economic might and its UN Security Council veto.

China in turn had access to Myanmar's abundant natural resources such as metals, timber and gemstones, as well as involvement in numerous hydropower projects.

But in 2011 Myanmar's military rule handed power to a quasi-civilian government. It launched dramatic political reforms that helped to sweep away most Western sanctions.

As a result the relationship with Beijing has changed, and the key Chinese-backed Myitsone dam project was suspended.

In May, two Chinese workers kidnapped and threatened at a China-backed copper mine in Myanmar were released after being held by activists demanding a halt to the project.

Thein Sein is also due to attend activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of an agreement on peaceful coexistence by China, Myanmar and India.

The 1954 Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence include mutually respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as mutual non-aggression and non-interference in each other's domestic affairs.

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