YANGON – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged during an official visit to Myanmar on Saturday that “the whole of Japan,” its public and private sectors alike, will support the emerging country’s reform process to ensure its continued democratic and economic advancement.
Abe held talks the same day with Myanmar opposition leader and prodemocracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, the nation’s business hub and most populous city.
During their meeting, Abe and Suu Kyi agreed that the expansion of Japanese corporations into Myanmar’s market would be beneficial for both countries. To that end, Japan’s investment in Myanmar must be stable and result in local job creation, the two were quoted as saying by a Japanese official.
Abe, on a three-day trip to the country through Sunday, told reporters in Yangon that Japan is eager to assist the development of Myanmar’s infrastructure, such as its power grid, a high-speed communication network, transportation routes and waterworks, as well as thermal power operations and its legal system.
“By supporting the growth of Myanmar, Japan can boost its own economic growth,” Abe said, stressing that he will become a “top salesman” in promoting the export of Japanese infrastructure technologies and its knowhow in nurturing legal professionals.
Myanmar has been rapidly opening up since transitioning to a democratic government in March 2011, following decades of oppressive military rule. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the country in 36 years and is being accompanied on his tour by representatives of around 40 companies keen to explore a highly promising new market.
Earlier in the day, Abe inspected the Thilawa special economic zone near Yangon that is scheduled to open in 2015 with a fresh yen loan, and observed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Japanese and Myanmar corporate representatives on the zone’s development.
Abe later told a Japan-Myanmar business seminar attended by more than 400 people that his visit is not aimed at “simply calculating profits” that Japanese companies could rack up in the fast-emerging economy, but rather at “assisting the nation-building efforts of Myanmar, which is an old friend of Japan and overcame many difficulties.”
He stressed the importance of building basic infrastructure, creating an environment to attract investment, training personnel and creating jobs.
Abe said the Thilawa economic zone, which is expected to draw a host of manufacturing companies, “symbolizes bilateral cooperation” between Japan and Myanmar and will generate significant new employment locally. Tokyo will “spare no effort” to make the project a success, he stressed.
The prime minister voiced confidence that Myanmar will benefit from the assistance of Japanese firms, which he touted as “highly competitive” in the global market and experienced in conserving the environment.
In the morning, Abe and his wife, Akie, laid a wreath at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon to pay tribute to Myanmar’s independence hero, Gen. Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, and his colleagues, who were assassinated at the site in 1947.
He also visited a cemetery for Japanese who perished in the country during and after the war, as well as an elementary school on the outskirts of Yangon that was established with funds from a Diet lawmakers’ group headed by Abe in 2004.