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Myanmar Crisis

Nippon Foundation chairman Sasakawa visits Myanmar

YANGON (Kyodo) -- Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the philanthropic Nippon Foundation and Japan's special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, arrived in Myanmar on Friday, sources close to the Japanese government said Saturday.    

Sasakawa, who has mediated peace talks between the military and armed ethnic minority groups in Myanmar for many years, may meet the military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, according to the sources.    

This is Sasakawa's first visit to Myanmar since the Feb. 1 military coup that toppled the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.    

Arriving at the airport in Yangon for his "personal visit," Sasakawa will stay in the country for about a week, the sources said. Known for his close ties with the military, Sasakawa frequently visited Myanmar before the coup and had met Min Aung Hlaing many times.

Sasakawa headed the mission dispatched by the Japanese government to observe the general election in November last year, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won decisively. The following month, Sasakawa met with Suu Kyi, who was in power at the time.    

When Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi was arrested in Myanmar in April, Sasakawa reportedly lobbied the military to release him. He was freed in May and returned to Japan. 

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