Clinton Makes Landmark Visit to Burma

Posted November 30th, 2011 at 5:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton has begun a landmark trip to Burma, becoming the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit there in 50 years.

Clinton arrived in the Burmese capital Naypyitaw Wednesday from South Korea, where she told reporters she will determine for herself the civilian Burmese government's intentions to continue political and economic reforms.

Clinton talked about what U.S. President Barack Obama calls “flickers of progress” from the new Burmese government, which took office earlier this year after more than four decades of military rule.

Mr. Obama had said Clinton will explore what the United States can do to support progress on political reform, human rights, and national reconciliation in Burma. She is also expected to urge the country's leaders to cut military and nuclear ties with North Korea.

Clinton will meet President Thein Sein on Thursday before travelling to the main commercial city of Rangoon for talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi told a videoconference audience in Washington Wednesday that she definitely plans to run in the next Burmese parliamentary elections. She says her opposition National League for Democracy party will re-register after boycotting the last election in 2010. No date has been set for the new vote.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner says her intention to run for parliament is a sign that there is an opening in the Burmese political environment. He calls this constructive.

Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest last year after spending much of the previous 20 years in detention. Her party won the 1990 elections by a landslide, but was stopped from taking power.

The United States and other Western nations imposed sanctions on the former Burmese military government because of its widespread human rights abuses and failure to enact democratic reforms. Mr. Obama has said that if Burma continues to progress, it can forge a new relationship with Washington. But he warned of continued sanctions if the government fails.