China's premier will visit Myanmar next week for a summit of Mekong River countries, according to a Reuters report, opening the way for Beijing to shore up ties with a neighbor that has lately courted Washington.
Wen Jiabao's trip follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's landmark visit that saw Myanmar's new civilian government pledge to forge ahead with political reforms and re-engage with the global community.
U.S. president Barack Obama decided last month to open the door to expanded ties, saying he saw potential for progress in the country.
Improved ties could underscore Obama's determination to ramp up U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and balance China's fast-growing economic, military and political influence.
However, a U.S. envoy in Beijing said on Tuesday Washington was not looking to undermine China's stake in Myanmar.
Two sources familiar with Chinese planning who confirmed Wen's upcoming trip spoke on condition of anonymity. They were unable to confirm whether Wen will also make a full-scale bilateral visit to Myanmar.
However, the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMSR) meeting will at least give him a chance for informal discussions with the country's leaders. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam also share the Mekong River and are included in the grouping.
At a daily briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said he had "no information" about whether Wen would visit Myanmar soon.
The Myanmar government website (www.4thgmssummit.gov.mm) said leaders were scheduled to gather in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Monday and Tuesday, although the website did not identify which leaders would attend.
Wen visited Myanmar in June last year, when the two sides signed agreements on energy cooperation.