Home Asian News Can Japan's 'invisible' diplomacy help resolve the Myanmar crisis? - Diplomat

Can Japan’s ‘invisible’ diplomacy help resolve the Myanmar crisis? – Diplomat


More than two and a half months have passed since the coup in Myanmar. Although other countries are responding to the situation, they have been unable to make a concrete impact to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Myanmar, sparking harsh criticism from observers such as BBC.

Likewise, there has been criticism towards Japan for its unclear position relative to other countries, especially when the country does not impose harsh economic sanctions. The Japanese government’s response is drawing attention both at home and abroad, raising questions about how long the country can continue its current stance.

On April 2, the Japanese government was asked about future sanctions an open letter by a group of Burmese living in Japan and the International NGO Human Rights Now. The government’s answer was, “We’ll see it in the future.” Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu gave a similar response when asked at a press conference about a possible discontinuation of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

During the press conference, Motegi quoted a line in “The Little Prince” by saying, “What is essential is not visible to the eye.” In its response in an earlier open letter, the Foreign Ministry cited the example of a Japanese ambassador meeting with a foreign minister appointed by the military, and said that Japan would continue to play its “sole role” in the crisis. .

Motegi was asked during the Diet this month about Japan’s response to the situation in Myanmar. This time, he quoted one of Aesop’s fables: “Like the north wind and the sun, it would be very difficult to overcome this harsh situation without the combination of multiple means.” The fable tells the north wind and the sun fighting to force a tourist to take off his cloak. The north wind can’t get the job, no matter how angry he blows – the sun wins the competition by shining warmly on the visitor until he is willing to take off his cloak. Moral: “Gentleness and kind persuasion win when force and blush fail.”

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This position of the Japanese government has received much criticism. Major Japanese media report That the Japanese government’s response to the aforementioned open letter has been met with disappointment from Burmese citizens living in Japan. Criticism also comes from some Japanese academic and political communities.

Despite these criticisms, why didn’t Tokyo join other countries in imposing economic sanctions? In his poetic statements, Motegi may be hinting at the existence of undisclosed diplomatic efforts to the public. If we listen carefully the answers Given by you and others from the State Department in the Protocol, we can see that Japan’s actions against the Myanmar military are based on cooperation with other countries, including the United States. The “only role” that the international community expects Japan to play may be to act as the “sun” in the fable, and to bring the Myanmar military government into dialogue through soft persuasion. In this case, Japan’s ODA will be the key. The cessation of ODA by Japan, the biggest contributor to Myanmar, except China, will be an important diplomatic card, and Tokyo will likely use it as a lever to seek dialogue.

The comments from the US government support this idea. In a press call in the background Held on April 15, just before the Japan-US summit, the White House expressed its favorable views on Japan’s diplomatic contributions when asked if the president plans to promote Japan. Stronger stance towards Myanmar or not. The senior government official made it clear that Japan was “very active… behind the scenes,” by “encouraging ASEAN to actively engage with… the government” and tried to keep the lines of communication. with civilian government leaders in custody.

If the Japanese government is looking to use its quiet foreign policy to play the role of “the sun”, the Japanese government will face a difficult road ahead. From the very beginning, the chances of the new military and the National Unified Government being announced to enter the negotiating table were less and less. In addition, if Japan avoids imposing sanctions in order to not maintain a dialogue with the government, it will be criticized during this time. As I wrote in the article last month, when the Japanese Ambassador met with the ranks before other countries, was met with great criticism from the people of Myanmar and Japan. Therefore, it is difficult to openly call for dialogue with the military after that. As mentioned above, members of the Diet’s opposition parties have been actively addressing the Myanmar issue, and some Burmese living in Japan have begun to show disbelief in the response of Japanese government.

More, Confirmed by the Embassy of Japan that a Japanese journalist was detained by the military on the night of April 18 and transferred to the Insein prison. It will be even more difficult for the Japanese government to continue seeking dialogue in a situation that now involves direct participation of Japanese citizens.

At a time when the condemnation from the Western countries was not clearly in effect, would the Japanese government’s decision to abandon dialogue and engage in debate about sanctions by the Japanese government really saved lives. of local people in Myanmar or not. However, in the context of the situation, Japan’s search for dialogue is still limited. Each nation’s determination is again questioned as governments try to defuse devastation across Myanmar. And especially for Japan, the question is, how long can it sustain the “sun” instead of the “north wind”?

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