Japan cautious on Sri Lanka military breakthrough
Japan, Sri Lanka's top donor, was cautious yesterday after the Tamil Tiger rebels' capital fell, with an official saying that only a political solution could resolve the island's ethnic war.
Sri Lanka's army last week captured the de facto rebel capital Kilinochchi and said it was now closing in on the headquarters of the Tigers, who have been fighting since 1972 to set up an independent homeland for the Tamil minority.
Japan provides nearly two-thirds of Sri Lanka's international aid and has sent its special envoy four times in the past three years to try to broker an end to the conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
"The real solution to the ethnic conflict can be realised only through political efforts," a Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of Sri Lankan matters told AFP.
"Japan will keep encouraging the Sri Lankan government to pursue a political solution to the ethnic conflict by promoting local autonomy in the northeast region," he said.
The official requested anonymity as Japan has not yet officially reacted to the events in Sri Lanka. He said, however, that he expected the bloodshed to continue.
"Capturing the de facto capital of the rebels holds symbolic meaning but its military significance is limited," he said.
"The conflict is expected to continue in the jungles of eastern Sri Lanka," he said.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, part of the Sinhalese majority, vowed in a New Year's address to crush the Tigers once and for all in 2009.