Abe vows support for Myanmar's reforms from "whole of Japan"

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Saturday that "the whole of Japan" -- both public and private sectors of the country -- will support ongoing reforms in Myanmar to ensure the development of the rapidly democratizing country.

Abe, who is on a three-day visit to the Southeast Asian country through Sunday, told reporters in Yangon that Japan is eager to assist the development of infrastructure in Myanmar, such as a thermal power plant, high-speed communication network and waterworks, as well as the country's legal system.

"By supporting the growth of Myanmar, Japan can also boost its own economic growth," Abe said, adding that he will become a "top salesman" to promote the export of Japanese infrastructure technology and know-how in nurturing legal professionals.

Myanmar has been opening up after years of military rule since its transition to a democratic government in March 2011. Abe is visiting the country as the first Japanese leader in 36 years with representatives of around 40 companies to explore business opportunities for Japan.

Earlier in the day, Abe inspected the Tilawa special economic zone near Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, which is scheduled to open in 2015 with a fresh yen loan. He observed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Japanese and Myanmar business representatives on the development of the area.

The prime minister later told a Japan-Myanmar business seminar attended by more than 400 people that his visit is not aimed at "simply calculating profits" for Japanese companies but at "assisting the nation-building efforts of Myanmar, which is an old friend of Japan and overcame many difficulties."

He stressed the importance of constructing basic infrastructure such as power grids, transportation and sewage systems, facilitating environment to attract investment in Myanmar, training personnel and creating jobs in the country.

Abe said the development of the Tilawa special economic zone, which is expected to host many manufacturing companies, "symbolizes bilateral cooperation" and will generate significant employment opportunities. Japan will "spare no effort" to make the project a success, he added.

The premier said he is confident that Myanmar will appreciate cooperation with Japanese firms, which are "highly competitive" in the world and good at conserving the environment.

Later in the day, Abe held a dialogue with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the morning, the premier and his wife Akie laid a wreath at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon to pay tribute to Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San, Suu Kyi's father, and his colleagues who were assassinated at the site in 1947.

The premier also visited a cemetery for Japanese nationals who perished in the country during and after World War II and an elementary school on the outskirts of Yangon, which was donated in 2004 by a Japanese parliamentarians' group headed by him.

Abe told school officials that Japan will continue to support children's education in Myanmar, saying it is "a source of growth" for the country.

Akie, who has personally been engaged in activities to aid children's education in Myanmar, visited a Buddhist temple school.