Burmese Foreign Minister HoldsTalks in Tokyo

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 3:40 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin has arrived in Tokyo, where he is holding talks with senior Japanese officials.

Japanese Secretary Osamu Fujimura greeted the visiting minister, who made a brief public statement.

He said the visit marks a step forward in developing cooperation between the two countries.

The trip is the latest in a series of moves by the new Burmese government to engage with its critics and boost relations with other countries. However human rights groups are calling for Japan to use the visit to press Burma for faster progress in reforming its human rights performance.

Human Rights Watch said Japan should not be seduced into thinking Burma's recent measures, including the release of about 200 of its 2,000 political prisoners, are sufficient.

It is the first time in 16 years that a Burmese foreign minister has formally visited Tokyo, apart from international conferences.

Japan was Burma's largest aid donor until assistance was cut off following the imprisonment of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003. Some development aid was restored in June and Japan's foreign ministry said that could be increased if political prisoners are released.

Japanese press reports say Tokyo is eyeing Burma as a possible source of rare earth minerals, which are vital to the production of many products in Japan's high-tech economy. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has said he hopes to strengthen economic and cultural ties with Burma during the visit.