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As political turmoil continues to engulf Myanmar (including the detaining of a Japanese journalist last week and the killing of at least 18 protesters Sunday), Tokyo — which has built a strong relationship with military leaders over decades — looks to avoid jeopardizing those ties, partially out of fear that excessive punishment could drive Myanmar into the arms of China. In a deep dive, Satoshi Sugiyama and Tomohiro Osaki look at the Asian nations’ ties, Japan’s focus on its well-known diplomatic line to the junta and the view that any tangible results from Tokyo’s outreach is likely to prove “difficult.”

Tokyo’s concerns about China have also grown in areas closer to home, with ruling party members citing Japanese government officials as saying the Japan Coast Guard could directly fire their weapons against foreign vessels aiming to land on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

An injured protester receives medical attention in an ambulance after police and military forces cracked down on a protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday. | THE NEW YORK TIMES
An injured protester receives medical attention in an ambulance after police and military forces cracked down on a protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday. | THE NEW YORK TIMES

The government officials told a ruling party panel that they had changed their interpretation of existing laws, Kyodo reports, after China enacted a new law last month that lets its coast guard use weapons against foreign ships Beijing sees as illegally entering its waters.

While Japan Coast Guard officials have warned that “the risk of accidental future conflicts can’t be ruled out,” local fishermen are calling for authorities to calmly deal with the problem since almost no local Japanese fishing vessels travel near the Senkakus, the Okinawa Times reports.

“I understand the threat of China. But I want the government to handle the situation carefully,” said one fishery worker.

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