• Kyodo


Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi has told Myanmar’s ruling junta that Japan will continue to push for the release of prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi until she is freed.

During a BBC interview to be aired Thursday, Kawaguchi said Japan may review its “constructive engagement” policy, which is based on economic aid and dialogue.

The foreign minister said she told her Myanmarese counterpart, Win Aung, to release Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy when the two ministers met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting, which ended Wednesday.

The British Broadcasting Corp. interview was recorded Wednesday. , Japanese officials said.

Asked if Japan will take tough measures on Myanmar, Kawaguchi said that depends on how the junta deals with the issue.

During the meeting with Win Aung, Kawaguchi hinted that Japan may review its aid policy if no progress is seen on the issue. Japan has provided grants to Myanmar in such areas as health and welfare, education and technical assistance with the intention of encouraging the military regime to promote democracy.

U.S. urges hard line

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. lawmakers urged Japan and other Asian countries Wednesday to take a tougher stance against Myanmar’s military rulers.

The U.S. feels that this could encourage the release of prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and accelerate moves to restore democracy.

Dianne Feinstein, a senator from California, said the engagement policy taken by Japan toward the junta is ineffective.

“My view is that it has not worked,” Feinstein, a Democrat, told reporters when asked about Japan’s policy toward Myanmar. “The fact of the matter is that there have been talks, but there has been no action.”

At a congressional hearing, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations came under fire for what the participants described as a lack of a prodemocracy policy toward Myanmar.

Sen. Mitch McConnell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the present position among Japan and other Asian nations tends to perpetuate the dictatorial control of the country.

McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said those countries should “rethink the dangers inherent to cooperating with an illegitimate regime.”

At the congressional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner welcomed as a “first step” ASEAN’s joint communique Tuesday urging Suu Kyi’s release but said the regional countries must do more.

“In order to be effective, Burma’s (Myanmar’s) neighbors must join us to increase pressure on the SPDC,” Craner said, referring to the State Peace and Development Council, the junta’s name.

“It’s time for ASEAN members to act decisively and firmly to address the problems in Burma that affect their region,” Craner said.

On May 30, the junta placed Suu Kyi and other leading members of her National League of Democracy under “protective custody” after people described as supporters of the junta attacked her motorcade, killing and injuring dozens.

The latest crackdown by the junta has caused the United States to plan tighter measures against Myanmar.

Congress is planning legislation that would impose some of the toughest economic sanctions ever — including a ban on the importation of goods from Myanmar — on a country for human rights violations.

The U.S. government may also consider downgrading diplomatic relations with Myanmar, as proposed by McConnell.

Myanmar’s ambassador in Washington should be sent back to Yangon “until such a time that Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners are freed,” McConnell said.

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