Clinton Makes Landmark Visit to Burma This Week

Posted November 29th, 2011 at 2:05 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a two-nation trip to Asia that includes the first visit to Burma by a U.S. secretary of state in 50 years.

Clinton will stop in South Korea before traveling on to Burma. Her visit to the isolated country begins Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month he was sending Clinton to Burma in response to what he called “flickers of progress” from the Burmese government, which ended decades of direct military rule in March when it brought in a nominally civilian parliament.

Mr. Obama cited steps by Burma to open a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners and the opening of the political environment.

Mr. Obama said Secretary Clinton will explore what the U.S. can do to support progress on political reform, human rights and national reconciliation in Burma.

It is the most significant U.S. policy move on Burma in years. The U.S. and other western nations have for decades imposed sanctions on the country for its human rights abuses and failure to enact democratic reforms.

A Burmese presidential aide tells VOA recent developments in diplomatic ties could lead to the end of U.S. sanctions against Burma. The aide cited exchanges of visits by officials from both countries.

President Obama said that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with Washington. But he warned of continued sanctions if the government fails to move down the path of reform.