Japan, Myanmar Eye Stronger Defense Ties

Two sides discuss defense relations during Gen Nakatani’s visit to the Southeast Asian state.

Japan, Myanmar Eye Stronger Defense Ties
Credit: Myanmar flag via

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani discussed Tokyo’s potential assistance to Myanmar’s military during meetings with the country’s leaders this week, Japanese media outlets reported.

Nakatani had planned to visit Myanmar, Thailand, and Timor-Leste following his attendance at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

During his visit to Myanmar this week, Nakatani met with the head of Myanmar’s military Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, his counterpart Lt. Gen. Sein Win, and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi who assumed the position of State Counselor following historic elections that swept the opposition National League of Democracy (NLD) into power.

According to Japanese media outlets, one of the points of discussion during the meetings was support by the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) for capacity-building for Myanmar’s military, part of Tokyo’s efforts to boost its assistance to Naypyidaw across a range of areas. Ahead of his visit to Myanmar, Nakatani had admitted at a defense ministry press conference that strengthening defense ties would be on the agenda.

“While there have been few meetings or exchange programs between Japan and Myanmar in the field of security, the forthcoming visit is intended to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and promote defense exchanges through meetings and exchanges of opinions with relevant officials,” he said.

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Few specifics, however, were publicly available on the meetings. According to a post on Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page after his meeting with Nakatani, the military chief explained the military’s role in the peace process and noted Japan’s record of assisting Myanmar’s armed forces. The two sides also reportedly discussed elements of bilateral cooperation, including naval ties, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, exchange programs, and other related training.

As for Suu Kyi’s meeting, Kyodo News reported that she thanked Nakatani for his offer of support, though it did not specify what the nature of this support was. “I would like to push for democracy under civilian control,” Japanese officials quoted Suu Kyi as saying.