• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit Myanmar in late April to bolster ties with the country after its first democratically elected government in more than 50 years took office Wednesday, government sources said.

Kishida is expected to meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who joined Myanmar’s new Cabinet as foreign minister and holds three other posts, to invite her to Japan, the sources said. He is also likely to offer Japan’s assistance on building infrastructure and pursuing democratization.

By strengthening bilateral ties, Tokyo apparently hopes to counter China’s increasing leverage in Southeast Asia. Japan also expects to benefit economically from supporting the growth of Myanmar, which is abundant in natural gas and other resources.

Kishida is expected to convey a plan to increase Japan’s official development assistance and private investment in transportation infrastructure and an industrial complex in the suburbs of Yangon, whose development has been supported by Japan, the sources said.

Suu Kyi is believed to have been disappointed that Japan did not impose economic sanctions on Myanmar when it was controlled by the military, a diplomatic source said. Japan hopes to show it values its ties with Myanmar by getting her to visit Japan.

Japan had extended around ¥590 billion ($5.2 billion) in financial assistance to Myanmar by March 2011, including both loans and grants.

And as Myanmar began implementing democratic reforms, Japan accelerated its support, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announcing in 2013 that Japan would waive ¥190 billion in debt owed by Myanmar.

On Wednesday, Htin Kyaw, a trusted aide of Suu Kyi, was sworn in as president of Myanmar after last year’s general election.

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