According to the government of Myanmar, talks are under way on restarting a 1,215km railway across the country, between China’s Yunnan province and the Bay of Bengal, Voice of America reports.
The project, one of the most important in the Belt and Road Initiative, will establish the China–Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which will include a pipeline, highways, border trade zones, and a deepwater port and special economic zone.
The corridor will give China a route to the oil and gas reserves of the Middle East that bypasses the choke-point of the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia.
No current cost is known for the rail element of the corridor, but it was priced at $20bn in 2011.
The project, which has been delayed by the pandemic, is divided into two sections: from Muse to Mandalay, and from Mandalay to the port city of Kyaukphyu.
A spokesperson for Myanmar’s military government told VOA: “The railroad project to Kyaukphyu is included in [our] development agreements … Field inspection and reports have been completed. The implementations to resume the projects are still being discussed.”
A source at the Myanmar Transportation Department told the VOA that a meeting with Chinese officials had taken place in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital.
In June 2020, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, a subsidiary of China Railways, made an application to conduct feasibility studies for the 650km section between Mandalay and Kyaukphyu.
A memorandum of understanding for the railway was signed between the Myanmar government and China Railways in October 2018.
VOA notes that during the 20th Party Congress in October, President Xi Jinping stressed that energy security was one of Beijing’s principal concerns.
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