The government will send Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka to Myanmar for talks as early as Sunday and may withdraw the ambassador, depending on the outcome, Japanese government sources said Friday.
Tokyo has traditionally used a policy of engagement with Myanmar, in contrast with the United States and European countries.
Japan has imposed no economic sanctions against Myanmar and has continued what it calls urgent and humanitarian assistance, including construction of hospitals and schools in rural areas.
Grant aid from Japan to Myanmar amounted to ¥1.35 billion and technical assistance ¥1.73 billion in 2006. According to data, as of 2004 Japan was the top donor to Myanmar of the 23 member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Some Japanese media reported Friday that Japan is considering sanctions, such as banning Japanese from making new investments in Myanmar, but a senior Foreign Ministry official was leery of applying sanctions too soon, saying they should make sure they have a sufficiently effective impact on changing the attitude of the military government.
One key factor in Japan’s decision on how to react will be whether the international community, especially China, can unite to put more pressure on Myanmar, the official said.
“We want to find out how (the U.N.) Security Council will discuss (the sanctions issue),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said earlier in the day. “We will strongly demand (the military government) not to repeat an event like this again.”
Japan has posed no restrictions on exports, imports or financial transactions with Myanmar, while the U.S. has banned all of them since 2003.
Tokyo has meanwhile urged the military junta to promote democratization, and stopped providing major official development assistance since 2003, when the military government placed nonviolent resistance leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 winner of Nobel Peace Prize, under house arrest.
“We have maintained dialogue, pressure and engagement. Countries that are implementing sanctions have no relationships (with Myanmar), and they don’t even hold talks with the country,” said a Foreign Ministry official in charge of Myanmar issues Thursday.