Burma's President Thein Sein has welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying her visit is "historic" and represents a new chapter in relations between the two countries. Clinton met Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, with Thein Sein, Burma's foreign minister and other officials. She is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Burma in 50 years.
Clinton told the Burmese president that she made the trip because both she and U.S. President Barack Obama are encouraged by the steps the Burmese government has taken to help its people. 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, according to Voice of America.
Clinton, who arrived yesterday in the capital of Naypyidaw, is the highest ranking U.S. official in half a century to visit Myanmar, dominated since 1962 by a repressive military regime that still exerts control through a new civilian government.
She will discuss specific steps the U.S. would like to see Myanmar's leaders undertake, and also will meet with ethnic minorities and democracy advocates including Suu Kyi, the State Department official said. The overall U.S. desire is to be in listening mode and to test the seriousness of the Myanmar government's intent to reform in the period ahead, the official said in a briefing with reporters en route to Myanmar, says Bloomberg.
Before she arrived Ms Clinton said she wanted to directly assess progress in Burma. The country has recently taken some rapid steps towards change - moving from military to civilian government, partly easing press restrictions and releasing some political prisoners. But many remain in jail and persecution of ethnic minorities continues.
"I am here today because president Obama and myself are encouraged by the steps that you and your government have taken to provide for your people," Ms Clinton told Mr Sein as the two sat down for talks in the ornate presidential palace, informs ABC Online.
"I am here today because President Obama and myself are encouraged by the steps that you and your government have taken to provide for your people," Mrs Clinton told Thein Sein as the two sat down for talks. Thein Sein said her visit would prove to be a "milestone". "Your excellency's visit will be historic and a new chapter in relations," he said before the start of the closed-door meeting.
BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas, travelling with Mrs Clinton, says the top US diplomat's visit is both a reward for the reforms that have already taken place and an incentive for Burma's government to do more. The US secretary of state said before the trip she was quite hopeful that "flickers of progress" could transform into a real movement for change, reports BBC News.
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now