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This opinion appeared on soc.culture.burma.  It refers to the
LA article BRC -- J recently posted on Burmanet.  We were
surprised to find Japan's opportunistic Burma policies so
feelingly defended.  Ah, the poor, maligned Japanese
government, so abused by the west.   

The opinion of:  lance@xxxxxxxxx (Lance Cummings) 
Subject: Japan's Myanmar Policy Is Red Flag for U.S.??? 
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 10:41:58 GMT 

An article under the same headline--minus the question marks
at the end--was written by L.A. Times staff writer and
columnist Jim Mann.  It was carried in World Report, an insert
from the Times that's carried weekly by the Daily Yomiuri. 

This article appeared in Japan on Jan. 15. 

Mann begins by stating that Japan is cleverly playing good cop
to America's bad cop with the military rulers of Myanmar.   He
cites Tokyo's 16-million-dollar aid package to Myanmar,
which was offered last year after the release of Suu Kyi from
house arrest, and which will go for construction of a nursing
home in Yangon, as an example of how Japan is
"undermining" American policy toward Asia."

Mann says that Japan is staking out a great position in Asia--to
America's disadvantage--by letting the US play the heavy,
while Japan plays the sugar daddy.  At the end of the article, he
suggests that President Clinton should remember this when he
visits Tokyo in April.  He seems to be suggesting that  the
White House put pressure on Japan to get in line with
American foreign policy.  What he fails to do, however, is to
show why Japan's foreign policy is wrong, or why America's is

Now let's get one thing straight.  Myanmar's leaders are not
going to win any Humanitarians Of The Year awards.  They
are as sleezy a bunch as you never want running your country. 
But during the six years that Suu Kyi was held under house
arrest, Japan followed the US lead by withholding aid from
Myanmar.  But *after* Suu Kyi was released, Japan offered a
financial carrot, and Mann seems to think that this is a betrayal
of US policy.  Maybe.  But maybe the policy needs to be

Mann seems to think that sanctions should be continued until,
somehow, they result in the overthrow  of the military
government in Myanmar.  He doesn't say how this is going to
happen, even though it's obvious that economic sanctions have
largely been unsuccessful in toppling other unsavory regimes. 

He even goes on to say that Japan's paltry $16 million, which
in the world of foreign aid amounts to tossing a couple of
pennies in a beggar's cup, is helping to keep the generals in
power.  I say *that* is poppycock. 

Mann even admits that Tokyo cancelled a 48-million-dollar
package to upgrade Yangon's power grid after the generals
began talking tough again after Suu Kyi's release.  Tokyo's
actions sound like sound foreign policy to me.  Reward good
behavior modestly, and punish bad behavior.  What incentive
do the rulers of Myanmar have to modify their behavior if
Washington won't settle for anything less than their heads?

Mann also seems worried about the Keidanren's influence over
Tokyo's foreign policy.  And it's true that the Keidanren has
been pushing to exploit economic opportunities in Mayanmar. 
But he conveniently doesn't mention that the very same type of
influence is being brought to bear daily on the  US government
by its own business leaders.
Mann is right that Japan is likely to benefit from its policy
toward Myanmar both there and elsewhere  in Asia.  But
instead of suggesting that the US put pressure on Japan to
bring its foreign policy in line with America's, Mann should
demonstrate why American foreign policy in this regard is
worthy of immitation.  Perhaps the US is needlessly allowing
Japan an advantage.  Perhaps the US should modify its own
foreign policy.  After all, the present one doesn't seem to be
working, and it doesn't seem to benefit the US in any way. 
Quite the contrary, it would seem. 

If you get a chance to read the article, I believe you'll agree
with me that its tone, while careful, still left an unneccessarily
negative feeling about Japan's leadership in the minds of
American readers.  I felt it was a pretty one-sided piece. 


Lance Cummings
"Virtually From Tokyo"