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Japanese PM's Myanmar visit to enhance bilateral ties, economic cooperation

By Feng Yingqiu (Xinhua)

11:20, May 24, 2013

YANGON, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to arrive here later on Friday for a three-day state visit to Myanmar.

He will be the first Japanese prime minister to visit Myanmar in 36 years since 1977 when former Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda came to the country.

Abe, accompanied by business leaders from more than 30 Japanese companies, is expected to hold talks with President U Thein Sein on improving the investment environment in Myanmar for expansion of Japan's investment.

New relations between Myanmar and Japan have opened up after President U Thein Sein paid a historic visit to Japan in April 2012, the first in 28 years. During the visit, U Thein Sein attended the Fourth Japan-Mekong Summit in Tokyo.

U Thein Sein's then visit was highlighted by Japan's writing off 300 billion yen (about 3.68 billion U.S.dollars) debt and overdue charge of Myanmar from the past two decades to help the country move towards democracy.

During that visit, three memorandums of understanding were signed, namely MoU on Japanese government's assistance to Myanmar government for human resources development fellowship program, MoU on cooperation in main project development of Thilawa Special Economic Zone, and MoU on Japan's assistance in preventive measures against natural disaster for rehabilitation of mangrove forest in Ayeyawaddy delta.

In January 2013, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso also visited Myanmar and since then Japan stepped up its economic activities in the country.

In April 2013, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi paid a week-long historic visit to Japan in 30 years. During the visit, Shinzo voiced support of Myanmar's reforms, pledging to help the country in building its future.

Suu Kyi's Tokyo visit also highlighted Japan's interest in investing in Myanmar.

Japan's investment in Myanmar reached 259.86 million U.S. dollars as of the end of 2012 since Myanmar opened to such investment in late 1988 and ranked the 12th in Myanmar's foreign investment line-up.

According to official statistics, bilateral trade between Myanmar and Japan amounted to over 1 billion dollars in the first eight months (April-November)of the fiscal year (2012-13).

Of the total, Myanmar's export to Japan amounted to 257.2 million dollars while its import from Japan was valued at 749.08 million dollars.

Meanwhile, As of April 2012 since 1970, Myanmar owed Japan a total debt of 502.4 billion yens (over 5 billion dollars) taken out as development loan, of which 198.9 billion yens ( 1.9 billion dollars) have turned to normal loan, while 127.4 billion yens (1.253 billion dollars) were written off in January 2013.

The arrears of 176.1 billion yens (1.732 billion dollars) are set to be written off within one year before the end of April in support of Myanmar's democratization and national reconciliation efforts as well as economic and social reform process.

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