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Myanmar army blames ethnic rebels for shelling inside China

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s army chief blamed ethnic Kokang rebels for shelling attacks in southwestern China that he said aimed to damage relations between China and Myanmar, state media reported Tuesday.

At a meeting Monday in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, the army chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, told China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Yang Houlan, that the shells that fell into Yunnan province, near northeastern Myanmar, last week were not from government troops but from the rebels.

The army chief blamed ethnic Kokang guerrillas for deliberately trying to “cause misunderstanding between the two countries and the armies,” the state-run Kyemon newspaper said.

The paper also reported that Myanmar President Thein Sein issued an order Monday extending a state of emergency and military administration in the Kokang region for 90 days.

China complained Friday of shells and airstrikes hitting their side of the border. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged Myanmar to restore stability to the region “as soon as possible.”

A similar incident took place in March, with Myanmar promising to punish those responsible.

The latest incident occurred as the government stepped up its fight against Kokang rebels along China’s southwestern border.

The Kokang guerrillas — who have engaged in deadly clashes with government troops since Feb. 9 — said they were reclaiming their land, but the government said it regards the attack as a threat to state sovereignty and will not negotiate a cease-fire.

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