“Free Aung San Suu Kyi. Free Myanmar. “ The slogans chanted by the thousands of Burmese and Japanese demonstrators gathered on Sunday February 14 in Tokyo to protest against the military coup in Burma contrast with the positioning of the Japanese government, cautious in its condemnation of the coup leaders. Worried about its relations with a strategically important partner, Tokyo fears new sanctions that could push the Burmese military to move a little closer to neighboring China.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on February 4 shared his “Serious concerns” and called to “Restore, as soon as possible, democratic functioning”. Japan signed the G7 communiqué condemning the coup.
Believing that the actions of the army were going “Against our values and our policy in favor of human rights”, the Japanese brewer Kirin terminated, on February 5, the joint venture with Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery, two subsidiaries of Myanma Economic Holdings (MEHL), a conglomerate linked to Tatmadaw, the Burmese army.
Tokyo, however, should neither go too far in its criticisms, nor join a new sanctions regime, in order to preserve its relationship presented as “Special” with Naypyidaw. This was forged during the Second World War, when the Japanese military trained the Burmese nationalists fighting against the British troops, starting with the group known as the “thirty comrades”, including Aung San (1915-1947), father of the leader. de facto, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Ne Win (1910-2002), at the head of the country from 1962 to 1988, and remained very close to Japan.
The Archipelago played a major role in the economic development of Myanmar – the official name of Burma – by granting, from 1955, war reparations and, from 1968, official development assistance (ODA). Tokyo distanced itself from the military junta after the 1988 coup, partly under pressure from the United States, while maintaining financial aid and a certain degree of diplomatic exchanges.
The onset of democratization in 2011 revived bilateral cooperation, strongly encouraged by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2012-2020), as considered to be of high strategic value to stem the growing influence of Beijing in the China Sea. southern and Indian Ocean. Since 2014, the Japanese Ministry of Defense has been training Burmese officers. Eight Burmese army cadets are currently studying at the Japanese Academy of National Defense.
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