BEIJING - Myanmar's transition to democracy will not change the country's traditional friendship with China, Myanmar President Thein Sein was cited as telling Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, amid concerns in China its neighbor could become a US ally.

Chinese officials and media have expressed concern Washington's renewed interest in slowly democratizing Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, could be part of US designs to dilute China's influence there and encircle China with pro-US states.

Fears about China's influence in Myanmar have been bolstered not only by Washington's engagement with the country but also the U.S. military's strategic "pivot" back to Asia.

But during a meeting on the sidelines of a trade fair in southern China, Thein Sein said Beijing should not worry.

"Myanmar is at present in a transitional phase, but Myanmar pays great attention to developing relations with China, and its policy of seeing China has a true friend has not changed," China's foreign ministry cited Thein Sein as telling Xi.

"China has for a long time provided a large amount of sincere support and help, and stood at Myanmar's side at the most difficult of times. Myanmar's people will never forget this," Thein Sein added, in the statement released late Friday.

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