VIENTIANE – Meeting with Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that Japan is committed to assisting in the development of her nation, offering a counterpoint to China’s influence.
In their talks on the sidelines of meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos, Abe announced that Japan will provide ¥125 billion ($1.23 billion), mostly in yen loans, to support agricultural development and poverty elimination programs.
Suu Kyi said Myanmar’s economy should promote foreign investment, and that her government is expecting to approve and enforce new investment legislation, according to Japanese officials.
Abe replied that Japan wants to encourage private sector investment in Myanmar through public-private coordination.
They also exchanged viewpoints on regional and international cooperation.
Abe expressed hope that Suu Kyi will visit Japan in the near future, and she replied that she would like to visit as soon as possible, the Japanese officials said.
The talks came after Suu Kyi chose China for her first overseas trip outside Southeast Asia since the longtime opposition party she leads took power in March following a landmark democratic election.
During that visit in August, Chinese investment in Myanmar’s infrastructure development was high on the agenda in her talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
Although constitutionally prohibited from becoming president, Suu Kyi has been appointed state counselor, a prime minister-like position, as well as foreign minister, in the new government.
Abe and leaders of the Mekong states — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar — were scheduled to hold a summit later Wednesday, where they were expected to discuss progress in Japan’s pledge in July 2015 to provide ¥750 billion in assistance over three years for infrastructure and other needs in the region.
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