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Game of Thrones: Japan Charges into Burma

The U.S. has been criticized, especially by human rights groups, for rushing too fast into Burma after its rulers “opened” the resource-rich but undeveloped country to investment. But the reality is that the U.S. is still lagging far behind Japan in exploring new business ventures in Burma, writes Reuters in a special report:

A fast-track deal negotiated in less than a year has paved the way for Japan to provide at least $18 billion in aid, investment and debt forgiveness from government and private sources.

In addition to this deal, Reuters has learned that Japan will provide up to $3.2 billion in new lending to build another special economic zone and deep-sea port in Dawei, in southern Myanmar, which would be developed into Southeast Asia’s largest industrial complex.

The deals have made Japan a major player overnight in the opening of Myanmar. The part of the Thilawa package that includes debt forgiveness and refinancing adds up to nearly $5 billion, dwarfing the $76 million in aid from the United States in 2011 and 2012 and a two-year package of $200 million the European Union has pledged.

Tokyo appears to have stolen a terrific business opportunity right out from under Beijing’s nose. When the government of Burma began looking for other suitors to escape China’s tight embrace, Japan was first in line. And a once stalwart Chinese ally, one of only two or three such dependable friends in the region, is moving away, making new friendships with China’s biggest rivals.

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