Secretary of State Clinton Visits Myanmar

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Lisa Mullins: I am Lisa Mullins, and this is The World. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Myanmar today. Mrs. Clinton is on a 2-day visit to the country which is also known as Burma. It's the first trip by such a senior American official in close to 50 years. That's how long Burma and its repressive military leaders have been isolated from the rest of the globe. But as Secretary Clinton noted today, recent political openings allowed by the military could herald a new era for Myanmar.

Hillary Clinton: Obviously, we and many other nations are quite hopeful that these 'flickers of progress' as President Obama called them will be ignited into a movement for change that will benefit the people of the country.

Mullins: Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times is travelling with Secretary Clinton. He is in the Burmese administrative capital Nay Pyi Taw.

Steven Lee Myers: Secretary of State Clinton came here to try to test the depth of the changes that have been taking place here over the last few months, to get a sense, I think, of whether or not there's a genuine commitment to loosening what is really one of the most autocratic governments in the world.

Mullins: Why specifically would the government of Myanmar, or Burma, be making these moves making these overtures? And why would Washington want to seize the opportunity?

Myers: I think there are many factors at work here. I've talked to many people in the administration about this over the last couple of months and they see what's happening here as a reflection of the country's willingness to kind of catch up with the rest of Southeast Asia and the world. This was a very isolated country and it fell far behind its neighbors like Thailand, let alone Singapore, Korea, or Japan. Another main factor is Burma's or Myanmar's only friend for years has been China and I think, at least, many people in the administration have said that they think that Myanmar's new President may be looking to ease the dependence on China a little bit.

Mullins: What is America's interest?

Myers: You know, America's interest I think is two-fold. I mean, there's the geo-political aspect of course in terms of managing rising economic and political power in China. But, the other factor which I don't think you can discount is the cause of Burma is very important to America, to members in Congress, to celebrities, to people who have followed Aung San Suu Kyi's resistance over the years. That resonates with a lot of people back home who favor democracy in everything. So I think it's two-fold for the administration. I mean, there is this larger regional geo-political concern, but I think also just a genuine desire to help the democratic aspirations of the Burmese people.

Mullins: And just one more quick reflection on being there... You're not in Yangon which is the former capital. You're in a new capital that was basically, seemingly built overnight.

Myers: It was, and coming in... I've been in places like this, repressive countries before, but driving in you don't see signs of modern life. It's still a place where you see water buffaloes and farmers on the side of the road. There's just not a city to speak of here in the sense that you and I would understand it. It seems like a very isolated, remote capital of a country that is somewhat behind. We just came here from South Korea and we were in Busan - - it's just another world compared to this.

Mullins: All right. Speaking to us from the administrative capital of Burma - Nay Pyi Taw, Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times. Thank you.

Myers: Thank you.