China asks Myanmar to 'lower temperature' on border

BEIJING (Reuters) - Myanmar must help "lower the temperature" along its border with China, a senior Chinese official told a Myanmar envoy, urging all parties to exercise restraint after clashes with rebels that have pushed refugees into China. Myanmar has accused Chinese mercenaries of fighting with ethnic Chinese rebels against the government in the northern region of Kokang and has sought China's cooperation to prevent "terrorist attacks" launched from its territory. Fighting broke out last month between Myanmar's army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which groups remnants of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful Chinese-backed guerrilla force that battled Myanmar's government before splintering in 1989. Thousands of refugees have entered China's southwestern province of Yunnan, to the government's displeasure. Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the Myanmar envoy that China had "consistently respected Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity", China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday. China "hopes that the relevant parties can exercise restraint and lower the temperature as soon as possible on the present situation in northern Myanmar, and earnestly maintain the stability of the China-Myanmar border region", Liu added. It was not immediately clear from the Chinese-language statement how the Myanmar envoy's name is translated in English. China's Foreign Ministry said the envoy was a former ambassador to China who was visiting Beijing as a special representative. "The Myanmar side thanks China for its help in appropriately handling the situation in northern Myanmar and is willing to keep in close touch with China," the statement quoted the envoy as saying. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing on Thursday the government was willing to help with peace talks if Myanmar asked, as it has done in the past. She added that the Yunnan government had recently introduced new rules about who could cross the border to "better maintain social order" there. Chinese media said the rules, which were issued last week, were aimed at restricting illegal crossing by border residents - in effect trying to staunch the flow of refugees. Led by ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, the MNDAA struck a truce with the government that lasted until 2009, when government troops took over the Kokang region in a conflict that pushed tens of thousands of refugees into China. Peng's recent return is seen at the root of the new fighting. In an interview with a Chinese newspaper last week, Peng denied he had been receiving help from Chinese citizens or mercenaries. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alan Raybould)