Japan is an important investor in Burma (both in the form of private investment and development assistance) so Japanese reaction to the death of journalist Kenji Nagai is worth following. A colleague in Japan, Taka Furuichi, provides this brief summary of the press reaction:

Death of a Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, working for Tokyo-based video production company APF News Inc., has been covered as top news by major Japanese media since the incident on 27 September. Reports by major Japanese media so far are basically categorized into four aspects although all are apparently closely related each other: (1) death of Kenji Nagai; (2) reaction of Japanese government; (3) reaction of international community; and (4) safety of Japanese community in Myanmar.

Of these, a primary focus and concern, with growing anger, has been given to Nagai’s death. It has been gradually proved by video tapes, that are repeatedly shown in TV news, that a soldier targeted Nagai and shot him from a close distance. The videos are showing a shocking reality to the Japanese community that Myanmar military is really shooting unarmed people in Yangon. Under the circumstances, the Japanese government, even though it has kept an engagement policy with Myanmar, reacted. The Japan Times reported this morning that ‘The (Japanese) government will send Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka to Myanmar for talks as early as Sunday (30 September) and may withdraw the ambassador, depending on the outcome, Japanese government sources said Friday. Yabunaka will urge Myanmar’s government to conduct a full investigation into Thursday’s fatal shooting of Kenji Nagai, and punish those who were involved, the sources said. To protest, the government is considering recalling the ambassador and reducing or suspending technical assistance to the country. It will decide on how to proceed after seeing how the military junta reacts to the requests, they said.’

Together with the international community, the Japanese government and media are strongly protesting against the action of the Myanmar military. Besides the message, the Japanese government may seriously move to further measures. The Asahi Simbun wrote an opinion this morning that ‘Intervention in politics of Southeast Asian countries involves distinctive difficulty due to their complexity of political systems and economic development. However, given that the current military action has happened, even ASEAN must have admitted that their passive approach of constructive engagement cannot be employed to the country. Unless the bloody military oppression on the innocent people ceases, Japan should consider further pressure on the country, including sanctions.’ Nagai’s death may have historical impact to bring a change of Japanese policy toward Myanmar.

Another colleague provides a somewhat different perspective.

After this tragic incident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised its travel warning to “Level 3,” advising Japanese people to postpone any plans to visit the country. According to several reports, the Japanese government currently does not intend to further reduce official development assistance to Myanmar. After 2003 (shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest), Japan strongly limited its ODA to humanitarian aid. According to government officials, further cutting down the support to rural poor should be carefully considered. Contrary to US and European nations, Japan takes a far more cautious stance towards sanctioning the Myanmar government.

Further insights from New Mandala readers would be very welcome.