• Kyodo

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U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized Japan on Tuesday for offering the largest aid package to Myanmar in a decade, saying it is inappropriate to deal with the country’s military rulers.

“The Japanese are making an investment in a hydroelectric plant” in Myanmar and this is “not a proper investment to be made at this time with this regime,” Powell told a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Powell said the State Department has already conveyed to the Japanese government Washington’s opposition to the aid.

In April, then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win in Tokyo that Japan is ready to offer a grant for his country’s hydroelectric project.

Tokyo has begun studying resuming the provision of the Myanmar grant, which it halted in 1988 after the country’s junta took power, following the start in October of dialogue between the Myanmar government and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a hiatus of seven years.

The resumption of dialogue provided “a few rays of hope” but they are “few and dim,” Powell said, adding that he will take up the issue of human rights in Myanmar when he visits Hanoi in July to attend a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

“We do need to do a better job in mobilizing a comprehensive approach to this problem with our friends in the region,” he said.

Rengo questions aid

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) will ask the government to postpone the full resumption of official development assistance to Myanmar, Rengo officials said Wednesday.

Calling the resumption of aid at this time “premature,” one of the Rengo officials stressed that, apart from humanitarian assistance, Japan “should not give aid that will consequentially benefit the junta.”

A major reason for the group’s opposition to the resumption of funding, which Japan is currently considering, is that “no concrete progress has been made in resolving the forced labor issue in Myanmar,” the official said.

Rengo officials said they are in the process of putting their request in writing to Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka or Vice Foreign Minister Yutaka Kawashima.

Koizumi-Bush talks

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Japanese and U.S. government officials are trying to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush sometime in early July in the United States, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

The sources said Bush is due to make a one-week trip to Europe in mid-June, while Koizumi will be tied up with the ongoing Diet session until June 29, so any meeting is unlikely to happen before then.

Koizumi and Bush agreed to meet as soon as possible during their phone conversation on April 28.

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