US to Burma: reforms must continue


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

In an attempt to establish new ties with Burma (Myanmar), US officials urged the country to live up to its promise to cut its military ties with North Korea and address its human rights abuses. 

Clinton said the US would reward Burma’s leaders if they continued “moving in the right direction” after she met with President Thein Sein. Clinton’s two-day visit starting December 1 marks the first appearance by a US Secretary of State in Burma since a 1962 military coup led to 50 years of junta rule. 

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US President Barack Obama reiterated Clinton’s message, saying "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 Burma’s recent changes of releasing political prisoners and relaxing media restrictions were the most significant reforms in years the US has seen. However, issues over North Korean ties and a myriad of human rights abuses remain a sticking point between the two.

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"If Burma fails to move down the path of reform, it will continue to face sanctions and isolation. But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail," he said.

Other issues the US said Burma must address before diplomatic ties are established were ending its ethnic violence in what has been "some of the world's longest-running internal conflicts" and starting a joint search for the remains of troops killed in World War II.

Not everyone has been happy about the developing relationship between US and Burma.

China, a major investor in Burma, has been portrayed as seeing Clinton’s visit to Burma as an attempt to stifle their dominance in the region, the BBC reported.