• Kyodo

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Japan has delayed the issuing of visas for two Myanmar military-appointed diplomats the junta seeks to send to Tokyo in place of two it fired in March, according to government sources.

Myanmar’s military has requested that Japan issue diplomatic visas for the two replacements. Tokyo has said it “is considering” the request but has yet to start issuance procedures, the sources said.

If Japan were to allow the two replacements to be posted to the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo it would be tantamount to recognizing the Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the country’s elected government under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the meantime, Japan is continuing to recognize the diplomatic status of the two sacked diplomats after the pair boycotted their duties at the embassy in protest against the coup. Japan does not recognize the military, known as Tatmadaw, as a legitimate governing body of Myanmar.

According to a document dated March 15, the Myanmar Embassy told the Japanese Foreign Ministry its military-backed government nullified the two’s diplomatic status and passports.

The embassy requested that Japan not allow them to use their passports, the documents show.

However, Tokyo has allowed the two to stay in Japan.

“We have made arrangements so the two can continue to work as diplomats,” a Foreign Ministry source said, even though a Japan-issued diplomatic identification card of one of the two expired in July.

The two have been collaborating with the National Unity Government of Myanmar, a group formed in the wake of the coup to represent the pro-democracy movement in the Southeast Asian nation.

Some Japanese officials said the government needs to closely monitor the case of Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador before coming to a final decision as to how Tokyo will handle the Myanmar military’s request to have visas issued for its appointed diplomats.

Given that the military has demanded Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador until shortly after the coup, be replaced by a military-appointed official, member states will eventually have to make a decision over which diplomats to recognize.

Kyaw Moe Tun remains in the United States after being charged with treason for expressing opposition to the coup at an unofficial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Feb. 26.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed full support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ decision to appoint a special envoy to Myanmar in the group’s bid to resolve the crisis.

ASEAN, Japan and other countries have been calling for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and other members of the former ruling party, the National League for Democracy, as well as other detainees.

Still, Tokyo remains cautious about joining the United States, Britain and the European Union, among other democracies, in imposing sanctions on individuals and groups involved in the coup, partly because of Japan’s close economic ties with Myanmar and China’s rising influence in Southeast Asia.

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