Hillary Clinton to visit Burma (VIDEO)


President Barack Obama speaks alongside US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while announcing that Clinton will travel next month to Myanmar, also known as Burma.


Saul Loeb

Hillary Clinton will visit Burma — also known as Myanmar — next month, the first visit by a US secretary of state in more than 50 years.

President Barack Obama announced that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma next month to discuss renewing US dialogue with the country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Obama made the statement on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia summits in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Friday.

The WSJ reported that:

The decision came after the White House concluded that this historically repressive government had taken important steps toward reform and that deeper U.S. engagement would encourage continued progress.

Obama's announcement came after Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Bali recommended that Burma be allowed to chair the 10-country ASEAN in 2014 as as a reward for "cautious political and civil rights reforms." 

(GlobalPost reports: ASEAN to back Burma as chair)

"After years of darkness we've seen flickers of progress," Obama reportedly said Friday. "We want to seize what could be a historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that, if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America," Obama said, according to the LA Times.

Obama said he had spoken Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader held in detention by the Burma military junta for much of the last 20 years, while flying on Air Force One from Australia to Bali on Thursday night.

The LA Times reported that according to Obama, it was their first conversation and that "she told him that she wanted to see American 'engagement' in Myanmar."

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has said that on the strength of recent political reforms by the military-aligned government, it will register to take part in elections, whenever they are held.

According to The Guardian, senior party members met on Friday and agreed it was time to re-enter national politics.

"We unanimously decide that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will register according to party registration laws, and we will take part in the coming by-elections," a party statement said, according to the BBC.

"Personally, I am for re-registration," The Guardian quotes Suu Kyi as telling delegates.

(GlobalPost series: Burma Rebooted: Part 1 — The changing face of Burma)

Meanwhile, Obama cautioned that there were still concerns about treatment of minorities and Burma's relationship with North Korea, Fox News reported.

Obama said the sanctions imposed on Burma by the US two years ago were still an option if the country did not continue on the road to reform.

Fox placed the president's comments in context, saying that:

Obama is in Bali after stops in Hawaii and Australia for summits and meetings focusing on military and economic pivoting to the Asia-Pacific region. He said the U.S. will now move to emphasize and work with the region in a number of fronts, including increased U.S. military presence that he announced in Australia and a series of new trade deals.