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Japan, Myanmar foreign ministers discuss Rohingya crisis

Myanmar's leader State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono hold talks in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Aug. 6, 2018. (Kyodo)

NAYPYITAW (Kyodo) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi discussed on Monday how to resolve Myanmar's ongoing crisis involving the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority group.

Kono told a press briefing in Naypyitaw, the capital, that during an hour-long meeting with Suu Kyi, who doubles as foreign minister, he called for allowing a newly established commission to conduct a free and transparent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine State.

Myanmar announced last week that it has formed a four-member commission involving former Philippine and Japanese diplomats to probe the allegations in the western Myanmar state, where the military has been accused of committing atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.

According to the United Nations, over 720,000 Rohingya people have fled to neighboring Bangladesh from the northern tip of Rakhine since the Myanmar military launched a harsh crackdown last August in reprisal for attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants.

The Myanmar government has reached an agreement with the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. refugee agency to cooperate in repatriating Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

Kono told reporters that he also urged the Myanmar government to cooperate with the United Nations in accommodating returning refugees.

He noted recent steps taken by the Myanmar government on the issue, such as forming the investigative commission and cooperating with the United Nations, saying peace and stability in Rakhine is crucial for the country's successful transition to democracy.

Kono said the Japanese government will continue to help solve problems by joining hands with Myanmar people and in close discussions with Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, whose government does not recognize the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group and denies them citizenship, told reporters that the two had "frank" discussions over the "Rakhine issue" and expressed her appreciation to Japan for its approach to the issue.

"Japan expressed its interest and discussed the Rakhine issue as a good friend who is trying to find out (how) to help solve our problem. We really value such an approach," Suu Kyi said.

Kono and Suu Kyi agreed on the latter's visit to Japan for a summit meeting between Japan and Mekong nations in Tokyo on Oct. 8 and 9.

Kono arrived in Naypyitaw via Bangkok on Sunday after attending regional meetings in Singapore.

The Japanese foreign minister met with Myanmar President Win Myint on Monday morning before meeting Suu Kyi at the Foreign Ministry.

He is scheduled to visit Bangladesh after Myanmar, as part of his three-nation tour of the region.

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