Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Japan’s support for Myanmar’s move towards democratization in a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), in Tokyo on April 18.
With Myanmar’s economy expected to rapidly grow in the near future, the Japanese government hopes to enhance relations by engaging Suu Kyi.
Japan invited Suu Kyi, who has talked of a possible future presidential bid, to foster a close connection with her, according to a senior foreign ministry official. Her last visit to Japan was 27 years ago.
Suu Kyi was put under house arrest by the military government and released in 2010. She became a national assembly member following the landslide victory of NLD in by-elections on April 1, 2012.
“(Myanmar) has moved forward with democratization thanks to Suu Kyi’s dedication but (its democratization) is halfway,” said Abe during the meeting. “We will support (Myanmar) so that it can go ahead with reforms and enable its citizens to realize that reforms enrich the country.”
While Suu Kyi also intends to showcase Japan’s support to the public as the “fruit” of democratization, she has not fully trusted the Japanese government in the past because it used to support Myanmar's military government.
Japan used to put priority on relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which was trying to prevent Myanmar’s military government from being isolated in the international community. Although the United States and European nations placed sanctions on Myanmar, Japan continued to offer humanitarian assistance to the military government.
In apparent response to Suu Kyi’s request that Japan should help Myanmar shift from military rule to democratic politics, Abe said, “We want to offer support in a manner suitable for Myanmar to become a country where citizens are free to make choices.”
So far, Abe has shown his intention to help Myanmar’s economic development by restarting yen loans this year. The Japanese government will help “improve (Myanmar’s) infrastructure and promote private investment through official development assistance,” he said.
“We hope to link investment from Japanese companies to Myanmar’s development,” Abe added.
“Suu Kyi’s visit to Japan has drastically raised Japanese citizens’ interest in Myanmar,” the prime minister said at the end of the meeting. “I want to enhance bilateral cooperation further.”
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