Japanese MSDF ships make 1st ever port call in Myanmar

Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force training vessels on a round-the-world voyage arrived in Myanmar on Monday for a five-day mission, marking the first ever port call by an MSDF vessel to the country.

The Kashima TV-3508, Shirayuki TV-3517 and Isoyuki DD-127 under the command of Rear Adm. Fumiyuki Kitagawa were welcomed by Myanmar navy officials led by Commodore Maung Oo Lwin at Thilawa port, about 25 kilometers south of Yangon.

The training ships Kashima and Shirayuki along with the escort destroyer Isoyuki have been traveling around the world since May with 730 MSDF members including 180 cadets.

Yangon is the fleet's 17th destination since it started the voyage.

The ships had previously visited ports in the United States and European countries, and they were at the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka last week.

Kitagawa said the visit is a precursor to further cooperation between the two countries on maritime security.

Moreover, recent improvements in the country's democratic situation have significantly paved the way for more international cooperation, he told reporters after the welcoming ceremony.

"Although we have no plans yet to engage in joint naval exercises between the two countries, both sides are willing to do so in the near future," Kitagawa said.

Japan has been trying to deepen economic relations with Myanmar since the civilian government led by Thein Sein came to power in 2011, and is now looking at further deepening security cooperation.

The move is also seen by observers as an attempt to counter China's maritime influence in the region.

After Myanmar, the Japanese fleet will proceed to Cambodia.