Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - In the event of political progress in Burma, Japan will enhance aid to the country, according to Japanese Prime Minister in a regional summit in Tokyo.
The Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama told Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein at the Japan-Mekong summit meeting in Tokyo from November 5 to 7, that it is important that Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners be released before Burma’s general elections in 2010, which should have participation of all political parties.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said at a press conference that the meeting presented a unique opportunity for Japan to have high-level talks with Burma.
"We need to continue to encourage the Burmese government to take positive steps in the process of democratization," he said.
The US administration has recently scaled down its tough stance towards Burma for an engagement policy, with senior US diplomats visiting last week.
"Their approach is now coming closer to Japan's policy," which favours dialogue, the official said, according to a report in the Thai News Agency website on Sunday.
The Japanese premier added that with the recent political progress being made; including dialogue between the Burmese junta and the Nobel Peace Laureate, Japan would expand humanitarian and human resources assistance to Burma.
The comment came during the 1st Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo, which is expected to strengthen relations between Japan and the Mekong countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and Burma.
After the summit, Japan committed to offer more than 500 billion yen (US$5.6 billion) in aid to five countries in the Mekong region over the next three years starting from 2010. It will assist 63 projects in the region, including developing ports, airports and power lines, encouraging private sector investments. It will also invite 30,000 people, including children, to visit Japan to promote exchange and understanding over the next three years.
The government leaders from five Mekong regions expressed appreciation of the initiative of Japanese leader Yukio Hatoyama to start the “Decade towards the Green Mekong” in 2010.
Japan initiated the Mekong-Japan Cooperation framework while designating the year 2009 as the Mekong-Japan Exchange Year, which follows the earlier reaffirmation to help narrow the development gaps in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through various sub-regional development projects.
“The Mekong region is the key to an East Asian Community. The region still faces a big development gap and by having them overcome such difficulties will raise the momentum and spirit of the community,” said Hatoyama in a press conference after the summit.