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Japan is moving to resume loans to Burma after a quarter of a century, a report said Thursday, the latest move by the world community to bring the country in from the cold.
Tokyo hopes to reach an agreement with Burma on a conditional resumption of the loans — to be used for infrastructure projects such as ports and railways — at a summit in late April, the Nikkei newspaper said.
Japan has made no new official yen loans to Burma since a military coup and fierce crackdown at the end of the 1980s, which came amid mounting fears in Tokyo over huge unpaid arrears the Southeast Asian nation had already built up.
Unlike major Western nations, Japan has maintained trade ties and dialogue with Burma, warning that a hard line on the ruling junta could push it closer to neighbouring China, its main political supporter and commercial partner.
Burma’s Asian allies, among them Thailand as well as China, already have a foot in the door and their firms are involved in hydropower, port and gas pipeline projects.
Japan has continued to provide humanitarian and emergency aid to the country, but halted regular economic assistance — such as grants — in 2003 following the arrest and detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Burma has undergone dramatic changes since polls last year that saw the election of a nominally civilian government.
Since then the regime has surprised observers with a series of reforms, welcoming Suu Kyi’s party back into mainstream politics and releasing hundreds of political prisoners.
The moves have seen Suu Kyi hit the campaign trail as her National league for Democracy party prepares for by-elections to be held on 1 April.
Tokyo will make the restart of the yen loans conditional on a resolution of Burma’s outstanding debts and the by-elections being fair, the Nikkei said.