Hillary Clinton to Visit Burma Next Month

Posted November 18th, 2011 at 3:25 am (UTC-5)
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In a major new diplomatic initiative, U.S. President Barack Obama says he will send Hillary Clinton to Burma next month, for the first visit to the isolated country by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years.

Mr. Obama made the announcement on the Indonesian island of Bali, saying the U.S. is responding to what he called “flickers of progress” from the Burmese government, which is still heavily influenced by the military. He specifically mentioned steps taken to open a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners and the opening of the politcal environment.

Mr. Obama said he had spoken by phone with Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time earlier and confirmed that she supports American engagement “to move the process forward.”

The president said that on her trip, Secretary Clinton will explore what the U.S. can do to support progress on political reform, human rights and national reconciliation.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. still has ongoing concerns about Burma's closed political system, its treatment of minorities, holding of political prisoners and relationship with North Korea. He said Burma will need to go further with reforms to have a new relationship with the U.S.