China says it is willing to play a role in peace talks between the government of Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which is seeking greater autonomy.A spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Burmese President’s Office Minister Aung Min, Kachin Independence Army Deputy Commander in Chief Sumlut Gun Maw, and others were in attendance during the talks, which were held February 4 in Ruili in the Chinese province of Yunnan.

“This was the first direct contact between the two sides since the recent escalation of the conflict,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference February 5 in Beijing.

She added that Luo Zhaohui, China’s director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, met with the representatives of both sides ahead of the talks and participated in the relevant talks as a witness.

The United States has also been encouraging talks between the sides.

On January 14, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. has “been working both with the government of Burma and with the Kachin Independence Organization to encourage both sides to halt the violence, to get into dialogue with each other.”

The 19-month-long battle between Kachin rebels and Burmese troops increased in intensity earlier this year, with the military’s use of airpower. Burmese air strikes on Kachin military positions marked a significant escalation in the fighting.

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