Japan, Myanmar to boost defense ties

Kyodo

Japan’s military chief, Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, met with Myanmar President Thein Sein on Wednesday, with Japanese diplomats saying they reaffirmed the two countries’ goals of enhancing defense cooperation and exchanges at every level.

The details of their talks in Naypyitaw, the country’s administrative capital, were not immediately available.

Iwasaki, chief of staff of the Self-Defense Forces, arrived in Naypyitaw on Monday for a four-day visit and met Tuesday with his Myanmar counterpart, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

In a statement, the Japanese Defense Ministry said the two generals discussed bilateral defense cooperation and agreed on “the importance of exchanges at every level between the Self-Defense Forces and Myanmar Armed Forces.”

That goal was set when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Myanmar in May last year, and it was reaffirmed when Thein Sein visited Japan the following December.

“The two generals shared the view that it is important to further develop relations between the two defense establishments by working on programs for defense cooperation,” the statement said.

Recent exchanges include last September’s port call at Yangon by a Maritime Self-Defense Force training squadron.

The ministry’s statement said Iwasaki and his Myanmar counterpart also exchanged views on the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, agreeing “that solutions through dialogue are quite important for regional issues.”

They are believed to have discussed Japan’s sovereignty row with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, as well as heated territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea, where China has been aggressively asserting its claims. Both topics were discussed between Abe and Thein Sein last December.

During the two leaders’ summit in May 2013, they said in a joint statement that they had “decided to enhance dialogue on regional issues and security in order to advance cooperation across the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.”