Trans-Myanmar pipeline gives China strategic boost against US: report

Published on Mar 05 2013 // Featured Analysis, News Update, Related News, Slide Show

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Construction on the Sino-Myanmar pipeline. (Photo/Xinhua)

A soon-to-be completed gas pipeline connecting the Indian Ocean coast of Myanmar with southwest China may help China avoid military obstacles set up by the United States, reports the Voice of Russia, an international broadcaster based in Moscow.

The state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which built the pipeline, announced on Monday that the 793-kilometer pipeline would become fully operational by May 30, less than three years after construction began.

The schedule of the pipeline was decided at an emergency Sino-Myanmar military meeting due to worsening violence between the Myanmar government and ethnic Kachins in the country’s north, not far from the country’s border with China.

The pipeline will help free China from its dependence on the Strait of Malacca for its energy imports, giving it a shorter and alternate supply route that also helps evade military obstacles from the United States, according to the Financial Times, adding that the pipeline is not only an issue of energy but also of strategic safety.

Countries in Southeast Asia including Myanmar have become the center of a silent conflict of interests between China and the US, with the latter attempting to develop its relations with those countries to restrict China’s growing power. Washington has already strengthened its cooperation with India and has established a new military base in the Asia-Pacific region through Australia.

The new gas pipeline will reportedly be able to carry 12 billion cubic meters of gas and 22 million tons of imported crude oil to China every year.

The pipeline offers China “an alternative supply route if the Strait of Malacca were ever blocked because of terrorism, piracy or conflict,” Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, director of North East Asia Project at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times.

“Beijing also fears that the straits could be threatened or cut off by the US if there was ever a conflict between the countries in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere,” the director added.

According to the Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, the pipeline appears to have given China an advantage in its strategic conflict with the US, though whether the advantage will last remains to be seen.

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