Saturday, January 5, 2013

Japan’s Deputy PM reaffirms Tokyo’s commitment to Burma


Friday, 04 January 2013 17:55 Mizzima News

Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso has reaffirmed his country’s pledge to write off some US $6 billion in debt from Burma while at the same time providing a fresh loan of approximately $600 million.

Burmese President Thein Sein (right) shakes hands with Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw. (Photo: President's office)

Aso, who is also the Japanese Finance Minister, made the comments at a press conference on Thursday following talks with Burmese President Thein Sein at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw.

“Following the change of government in Japan, just like the previous government, we want to maintain a good relationship with Myanmar [Burma],” Aso told reporters.

Citing a Japanese official with knowledge of the talks, Agence France-Presse reported that Aso had also agreed to consider Japan’s involvement in the multi-billion-dollar Dawei deep-sea port.

On December 19, following talks between Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra and Thein Sein, it was reported in Thailand’s The Nation that the Burmese leader had stated he “would invite a third country, likely Japan, to join in the investment.”

Japan is already massively invested in the 2,400-hectare Thilawa project near Rangoon which includes a port and industrial park.

Due to be completed in 2015, the Thilawa Special Economic Zone is being largely financed by a consortium of Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and Marubeni Corporation.

The Japanese Deputy Prime Minister is due to visit the site on Friday.

Aso is Japan’s first Cabinet member to travel abroad since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last week.

However, according to a January 4 report by Antoni Slodkowski in Japan Today, Aso had already arranged the visit to Burma—prior to his ministerial appointment—in his capacity as a senior member of the Japan-Myanmar Association, a lobby group set up to advance Japanese business interests in Burma.

“Senior members of the Association with established ties to the former junta have been central to securing a debt waiver and fresh loans for the Thilawa industrial zone,” said the report.

In recent weeks, several leading Japanese companies and banks have announced agreements to open offices and invest in Burma, including electronics giant Hitachi, telecommunications firm KDDI Corporation, trading company Sumitomo, and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ.
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