The Chinese military is set to hold live-fire exercises along its tense border with Myanmar, amid an ongoing ethnic conflict that has spilled over into China. China said it had informed Myanmar of the drills, adding that the exercise will not affect the lives of residents in the area, though some areas would be off-limits during the drills.
Myanmar officials also denied reports last month that five people in China were injured by artillery shelling across the border. There have also been at least three other alleged incidents of Myanmar planes bombing Chinese territory, causing a diplomatic chill between the two nations.
Thousands of people have fled across the porous border as the fighting has intensified in recent months, causing an influx of refugees into China. In February, an incident where Kokang rebels killed over 50 Myanmar security forces prompted President Thein Sein last month to impose a state of emergency in the region.
The largest rebel group in the Kokang region are the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an insurgent group formed from the remnants of Chinese-backed guerrilla forces loyal to the defunct Communist Party of Burma. They had brokered a truce with Myanmar, which was broken in 2009 when government forces stormed the Kokang region and ended a 20-year ceasefire.
Some reports in local Myanmar media have alleged that Chinese mercenaries have been spotted fighting alongside the ethnically Chinese MNDAA, and that the rebels are using Chinese-made weapons. China has maintained that it is not fueling the conflict or supporting the rebels, and has adopted an official stance of non-interference.