SIEM REAP, Cambodia — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Burmese President Thein Sein met in Cambodia to encourage new U.S. investments in Burma. They also discussed ongoing political reforms in Burma and the country's military ties with North Korea.
Secretary Clinton told the Burmese leader that she is sending a high-power delegation of more than 70 American business leaders to his country now that Washington has eased restrictions on investments and financial services in recognition of ongoing political reforms.
"This week has been a milestone in the relationship between our two countries," Clinton said. "Just two days ago, President Obama announced that the United States is easing restrictions, to allow more U.S. companies to do business there. And a few months ago in Washington, I urged American businesses to invest and to do it responsibly."
Secretary Clinton and President Thein Sein met for more than an hour ahead of a business forum meant to encourage greater U.S. investment in Southeast Asia.
President Thein Sein welcomed that investment, saying his country is at a crucial juncture. Myanmar, as the military renamed Burma, is putting an end to armed conflict, he says, and is engaging with entrepreneurs, ethnic leaders, and civil society.
"Today, after nearly half a century, Myanmar has embarked on a democratic path in building a new nation through peaceful transition," said Thein Sein.
Thein Sein adds thats democratic practices had vanished from the country for many years, so building a democratic state is the biggest challenge for his people.
"We have also permitted the formation of political parties [and] civil societies in accord with the existing laws," Thein Sein explained. "We have already enacted necessary laws that would protect the fundamental rights of our citizens such as formation of labor unions and to enjoin freedom of assembly and freedom of speech."
In their private talks, Secretary Clinton thanked the Burmese leader for the recent release of political prisoners and encouraged him to release them all.
She urged Burma to end its military relationship with North Korea. President Thein Sein said his country has no nuclear relationship with North Korea and is reviewing its military ties with Pyongyang.
A senior U.S. official says the secretary and president discussed using Burma's mineral wealth to benefit its people. President Thein Sein said he is focusing on value-added industries. His country exports teak, for example, but not finished teak furniture. Burma exports rubber, but imports tires.
Secretary Clinton and President Thein Sein were joined at the business forum by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.