Japan will extend $4 million in emergency food aid to Myanmar in response to a humanitarian crisis triggered by the Feb. 1 military coup, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The aid, to be channeled through the U.N. World Food Program, is expected to cover delivery of food to about 600,000 impoverished people in Yangon, where food supplies have sharply deteriorated following the ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected government.

“The latest aid is part of our country’s provision of assistance for humanitarian purposes and is urgently required following the coup,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters Friday in Tokyo.

Japan is seeking dialogue with the junta while remaining cautious about joining the United States, Britain and the European Union among others in imposing sanctions on individuals and groups involved in the coup.

Japan believes such punitive measures may drive Myanmar closer to China, a strategic competitor to the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific.

However, Tokyo has condemned the Myanmar military’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters and called for a halt to violence, the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees and a return to the democratic process.

The government has put on hold new official development assistance for the Southeastern Asian state in response to the coup.

Meanwhile, the U.N. agency has warned that up to 3.4 million people will go hungry, especially in urban townships, within the next six months as the current political crisis has added to the hardships of pre-existing poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are already signs of families in urban centers being pushed to the edge because of serious food shortages.

The average price of cooking oil has increased by 18% since February in Yangon and across the country, according to the Rome-based WFP.

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