The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
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.

Published on October 4, 2012 5:20 pm