With the United States announcing plans to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar over a coup earlier this month, Japan remains cautious about invoking punitive measures against the Southeast Asian country, fearing any such moves may affect Japanese businesses operating there and drive the military closer to China.

While the European Union is also considering slapping sanctions on Myanmar, Japan has been stepping up efforts to persuade Myanmar's armed forces, which seized power in the Feb. 1 coup, to free civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees and return to democracy.

Anti-military protests have been growing in Myanmar, and if the United States and the European Union go ahead with sanctions and urge Japan to follow suit, that would put Tokyo, a key U.S. ally, in a difficult position, according to experts.