Burma: US to relax curbs on aid


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner at the US Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon, Myanmar, December 1, 2011.


Saul Loeb

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced during a historic visit to Burma that the United States will relax restrictions on international aid to the impoverished nation.

Clinton also pushed the Burmese government to follow through on promises of reform and said there would be diplomatic rewards if it did so. The United States and Burma agreed to discuss the possibility of exchanging ambassadors and upgrading diplomatic relations if more tangible reforms are made, The New York Times reported.

Clinton is visiting Burma, also known as Myanmar, on a three-day tour of the country seen as a response to the government taking small but significant steps towards political and economic reform. Clinton is the first US secretary of state to visit the country, which was long ruled by a military dictatorship, in 50 years.

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"The United States is prepared to walk the path of reform with you if you keep moving in the right direction," Clinton said after meeting President Thein Sein, as reported by the BBC. "These are incremental steps and we are prepared to go further if reforms maintain momentum."

The United States is pushing Burma to take the following steps towards reform: cut illicit ties with North Korea, release all political prisoners and end its conflict with and oppression of ethnic minorities.

GlobalPost's Patrick Winn writes that Clinton's short mission is highly significant and "could very well reverse the US-Burma rivalry as the outcast nation finds itself increasingly under China’s sway."

Clinton rejected the suggestion that her trip is an effort by the Obama administration to counter China's influence, the Associated Press reported.

"We are not viewing this in light of any competition with China," she said. "We are viewing it as an opportunity for us to re-engage here."

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