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Japan Condemns Burma for Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi - 2003-07-04

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told a visiting Burmese envoy Friday that Tokyo is dissatisfied with the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She also confirmed that Japan is withholding new aid to Burma, until she is freed. The decision is a blow to Rangoon, since Japan is a top international aid donor.

In unusually forthright language, Japan on Friday pressed an envoy from Burma's military junta to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying he was deeply disappointed in her ongoing detention. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been held in Burma since May 30 in an undisclosed location.

Visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win repeated his government's position that she is being held for her own safety. But Japanese officials say they are not satisfied with that explanation.

The Japanese government announced on June 25 that it was freezing new aid to Burma - a big source of help to the country - because of its treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kanji Yamanouchi, a spokesman for Japan's Foreign Ministry, quotes Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi as telling Maung Win that Japan cannot accept Burma's position. She reaffirms that Japan will postpone new aid, and presses the envoy for a quick solution.

Burma's envoy showed Japanese officials recent pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi, saying she had been moved since June 10, when a U.N. envoy called her conditions "deplorable." However, Maung Win offered no details on the pro-democracy leader's whereabouts.

Japan halted large-scale loans and economic aid to Burma after the military government took power in 1988, but it remains one of its largest donors through humanitarian aid and projects for the impoverished country's infrastructure. It also has provided debt relief worth nearly $100 million in the past five years.

Maung Win's Tokyo visit is part of Burma's diplomatic drive to soften international criticism of its detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. He visited Thailand on Tuesday and is scheduled to visit other Asian nations soon.