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Japan Presses Burma Over Shooting Death of Japanese Journalist

  • Naomi Martig

A Japanese envoy visiting Burma has demanded the military government provide answers about the death of a Japanese video-journalist, who was killed by security forces last week in Rangoon. Officials in Tokyo are considering stern measures against Burma to protest the shooting incident and the crackdown against democracy activists. Naomi Martig reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

During meetings Monday with several top officials in Burma's new capital, Naypyitaw, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka demanded that Burmese officials open a full investigation into the death of video-journalist Kenji Nagai.

Nagai was one of at least 10 people killed last week when security forces in Rangoon opened fire on pro- democracy demonstrators. Officials in Burma, which is also called Myanmar, insist his death was accidental - that Nagai was shot by a stray bullet. Video footage smuggled out of the country, however, appears to show a soldier shooting Nagai from about a meter away.

Assistant press secretary for Japan's foreign ministry, Kazuyuki Yamazaki, says Tokyo hopes the video footage will shed light on what happened.

"We are also referring that scene to the Myanmar government and we would like to receive their official account of why the Japanese journalist had to be killed," he said.

During the meetings, Yabunaka requested authorities return a small video camera Nagai was clutching as he died. The camera was missing from items returned by Burmese authorities.

Yamazaki said the Japanese envoy also called for Burma's military government to stop its violent crackdown and release the arrested demonstrators.

Japanese officials have said Japan may take strong steps against Burma. But Yamazaki says Tokyo has not yet come to a decision about imposing sanctions.

"In order to decide our response, we are taking account of the Myanmar sides' reaction to the request made by our government, especially through Mr. Yobunaka, as well their response to the international society including the United Nations' envoy to Myanmar," he said.

Burma's government has defended the crackdown against protesters. In an address Monday to the U.N. General Assembly, Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win said the military action was necessary to restore law and order. He criticized moves by some countries, including the United States, to impose or increase sanctions against it.

Japan is a top aid donor to Burma, providing about $26 million annually in recent years.

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