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Visiting Beijing, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi Seeks to Mend Relations

BEIJING — Hillary Clinton considers her a friend. President Obama has invited her to the White House next month. But on her first visit to a major capital since becoming leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi chose a different destination: Beijing.

With her arrival here late Wednesday, Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner credited with pushing Myanmar from a military dictatorship toward democracy, offered a potent signal that her foreign policy would be more friendly toward China, which is eager to strengthen its foothold in the country.

Her move risks unsettling Washington, however, since the Obama administration considers the democratic changes in Myanmar that brought Suu Kyi to power one of its major foreign policy victories in Asia.

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“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has long expressed her desire for friendly relations with China, and it’s not insignificant that she has chosen to travel to Beijing before any other major capital,” said Thant Myint-U, who is the author of “Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.”

China’s red-carpet welcome contrasts with how Suu Kyi was treated when she was Myanmar’s opposition leader.

Last year, she was reportedly 20 minutes late for a meeting with President Xi Jinping, who is said to have told her that she was the first person ever to have kept him waiting so long.

Now, China is making amends for that reprimand as it pushes to install itself as the foremost power in Myanmar. It is tailoring investment projects to suit the impoverished country.

It is also hoping to restart the $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam project, which was suspended in 2011 and is a major source of friction between the two countries.

One of Suu Kyi’s major objectives is to seek China’s help as she starts peace talks on conflicts in northern Myanmar between the ethnic groups and the military.

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Suu Kyi has scheduled a peacemaking gathering for Aug. 31. She has offered China a role as mediator, Myanmar officials involved in the talks said.

New York Times