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Japan's prime minister to visit Myanmar next week

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Myanmar next Friday, the first Japanese prime minister to do so in 36 years, informed sources said Saturday.

He will be accompanied by several dozen business leaders who are interested in investing in the country, the sources said.

Abe is expected to have talks with President Thein Sein during his three-day visit.

Abe plans to stress the government's positive stance toward expanding investment in the country, which was long under military rule. The country's economy had been largely closed to overseas companies during this time, but investment is expected to expand now that the country is working toward democratization.

Then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda was the last Japanese leader to visit the country, in 1977.

Abe will inform Thein Sein that Japan will continue to provide predominantly yen loans, which were resumed in fiscal 2012, to the country.

Abe will introduce the top business leaders to Thein Sein, hoping to sow concrete investment plans.

Japanese investment in Myanmar was $4.3 million as of fiscal 2011.

In addition to the ongoing democratization of the country, costs are considered at the lowest level among Asian countries. With relations with China souring, the country is thought to be suitable as a new production base for Japanese corporations.

Abe is promoting the expansion of overseas investment, which is one of the keys to the success of his growth strategy.

Additionally, Abe will ask Thein Sein to stop imports of weapons from North Korea, taking into consideration the U.S. Defense Department's report submitted to Congress on May 2.

The report, on military and security developments involving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea 2012, touched on weapons trade between the two countries.

"In June 2011, for example, a vessel bound for Burma , suspected of carrying military-related cargo, returned to North Korea after refusing a U.S. Navy inspection request," the report said.