Genba lining up rare Myanmar visit

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba is considering visiting Myanmar late next month to speak with Myanmar President Thein Sein, government sources said Saturday.

If the trip goes ahead, Genba is expected to urge Thein Sein to make greater efforts toward democratization, while conveying Japan’s readiness to assist Myanmar’s economic development

Genba also intends to meet with Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi during his trip, the sources said.

If Genba visits Myanmar it would be the first time a Japanese foreign minister has traveled to the country since Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi’s trip to Yangon in August 2002.

Japan welcomed Myanmar’s inauguration of a civilian government in March and the recent release of political prisoners.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to make a rare trip to Myanmar on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Thein Sein met earlier this month in Indonesia, on the sidelines of summits involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners.

Noda told Thein Sein that he welcomes Myanmar’s positive steps toward national reconciliation and democratization, and that Japan will continue to support Myanmar’s transition to democracy and its economic development. It was the first meeting of its kind in two years.

Tokyo also has expressed readiness to launch consultations on new official development assistance programs for Myanmar.

Japan has frozen all official aid to Myanmar, other than humanitarian aid, since 2003, when Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. She was freed last November.