Japan, Myanmar to discuss investment pact
Tokyo - Japan and Myanmar agreed on Monday to launch negotiations aimed at clinching a bilateral investment pact, Kyodo news reported, as the isolated nation gradually opens up after decades of tight military rule.
Japan hopes to promote Myanmar's transition towards democracy through stronger ties, Kyodo said, as Myanmar's new civilian government, which took power in March, begins to implement political reforms and re-engage with the global community.
A series of changes has been initiated by President Thein Sein aimed at pushing for the lifting of decades of Western sanctions and attracting much-needed foreign investment in the country formerly known as Burma.
Meeting in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba called on his counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, to free more political prisoners and to carry out upcoming by-elections in a fair manner, Kyodo said.
Myanmar is the only country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that Japan has not inked investment pacts with. These treaties typically reduce barriers to companies investing in factories and to corporate acquisitions.
Myanmar's army, which has ruled the former British colony for half a century, formally handed over power in March to the civilian president, a retired general, who has begun reforms aimed at reviving an economy crippled by sanctions over human rights abuses.
Gemba is also due to meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday.
Gemba's visit is the first by a Japanese foreign minister in nine years, according to Kyodo.
In a landmark step, U.S. President Barack Obama decided last month to open the door to expanded ties with Myanmar, saying he saw potential for progress in a country until recently seen as an isolated military dictatorship firmly aligned with China.
That decision was followed soon after by a visit to Myanmar by U.S. Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton.