Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thein Sein heading to Japan for financial talks

Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:40 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Burma’s President Thein Sein will arrive in Japan on Friday for a five-day visit to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on financial assistance to the country, following its recent moves toward democracy.

Noda is likely to announce a restart of full-fledged Japanese financial assistance during his talks with Thein Sein on Saturday, government sources told The Mainichi Daily.

Burmese President Thein Sein, a former general, smiles upon his arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport on March 21, 2012. Thein Sein paid a two-day official visit to the Cambodian capital. Photo: AFP

It will be the first official visit in 28 years by Burma’s top leader to Japan, said Japanese officials.

Japan is considering extending a large loan to Burma possibly starting by the end of fiscal 2012, officials said, to push progress made on a range of democratic reforms and national reconciliation since Thein Sein formed a nominally civilian government in March 2011.

Noda’s and Thein Sein’s talk will be held on the sidelines of a one-day summit meeting in Tokyo on Saturday between Japan and five Mekong delta nations – Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

During his stay through next Tuesday, the president, who will be accompanied by foreign and economic ministers, will meet with a number of Japanese business executives, according to officials.

Myanmar currently owes Japan about 480 billion yen. To pave the way for the resumption of yen loans, senior officials of the two countries have been in talks over the last several months on a scheme to repay some, if not all, of the debt, said the new newspaper.

Japan has never severed trade ties with Burma and did not impose tough sanctions even during the long period of military rule.

However, it stopped offering new development programs from 2003 in the wake of the third detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, with the exception of humanitarian aid and some limited technical cooperation.

Following the April 1 elections, in which Suu Kyi's opposition party won a landslide victory, many Western countries are moving toward relaxing financial sanctions against Burma.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department eased part of its sanctions on Burma to allow nongovernmental organizations and other humanitarian groups to start development programs and humanitarian assistance.

Also on Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc is planning to lift sanctions against Burma. EU foreign ministers are expected to officially approve the relaxation next Monday when they meet in Luxembourg.

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