Japan Plays Peacemaker in Myanmar To Keep China at Bay

Japan has taken up the difficult task in strife-torn Myanmar, of brokering peace between the military and the Arakan Army (AA), amid spiraling rivalry with China in the Indo-Pacific, the Siasat Daily reported.

The AA is active in the Rakhine state, a province of great strategic importance to China and India. Keen to minimise the usage of Malacca Straits, which are dominated by the United States and its allies, China has developed the port of Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine province. The new port bypasses Malacca by transiting imported oil and gas to Kunming, the capital of its Yunnan province, through a twin energy pipeline.

China’s inroads into a country, with which Tokyo has historical ties and geopolitical interests, appears to have animated Japan’s activism in Myanmar. Consequently, it has appointed Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation as its point person to pull out its chestnuts in turbulent Myanmar.

The man doing the peace-making job in Myanmar is Yohei Sasakawa, special envoy of the government of Japan for national reconciliation in Myanmar, who has visited the country twice in two months—a signal that Japan is taking the mediating role seriously.

Sasakawa has met both—State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmarese army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. He also successfully brokered a ceasefire between the AA and the Myanmar Army—the Tatmadaw so that elections could be held properly and people have representation in voting. This ceasefire happened for the first time in two years since fighting broke out in 2018.