BEIJING – China urged close ally Burma on Thursday to work with the international community to recover from a cyclone that killed tens of thousands of people.
Burma's government has confirmed that nearly 23,000 people died and more than 42,000 were missing from Saturday's cyclone. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said the death toll may rise "very significantly."
The top U.S. diplomat in Burma---renamed Myanmar by the ruling military junta---said the toll from the cyclone and its aftermath could hit or exceed 100,000 as humanitarian conditions worsen.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China would give $4.3 million in aid in addition to an initial $1 million.
"We hope Myanmar will cooperate with the international community, will have consultation with the international community, and we hope Myanmar will overcome the disaster at an early date," Qin told a news conference.
But Qin said any help should proceed along the principle of "equality and mutual respect."
"We should take full consideration of Myanmar's willingness and sovereignty. Respect Myanmar's sovereignty and willingness as well as its capability of reception," he said.
China's first batch of aid worth $500,000 has arrived in the country, and was ready to provide medical and rescue teams if the government agrees, he said.
"So long as Myanmar agrees, we are ready to give various forms of assistance consideration and take part in the rescue work," he said.
Operations continued to be hampered by the Burmese government's delay in issuing visas to aid workers. But the U.N. and other agencies said they were making progress in persuading the government to let in more experts to help get aid to those who need it most.
In a closed session, the U.N. Security Council discussed an informal proposal by France to authorize the U.N. to enter Myanmar and deliver aid without waiting for approval from the military. Diplomats said the U.S., Britain and five other members supported the idea, but eight nations, including China, opposed it.