United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has arrived in South Korea on the first leg of a two-nation tour that includes the first visit to Burma by a U.S. secretary of state in 50 years.
Clinton meets Wednesday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and attends the opening of a key international forum on global aid in the port city of Busan, before traveling to Burma later in the day for her landmark three-day visit.
U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month he was sending Clinton to Burma in response to what he called "flickers of progress" from the new, nominally civilian Burmese government, which took office earlier this year after more than four decades of military rule.
Obama cited steps by Burma to open a dialogue with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners and a general opening of the country's political environment. He said Clinton will explore what the U.S. can do to support progress on political reform, human rights and national reconciliation in Burma.
It is the most significant U.S. policy move on Burma in years. The U.S. and other western nations imposed sanctions on the military government in response to its widespread human rights abuses and failure to enact democratic reforms.
A Burmese presidential aide said that recent developments in diplomatic ties could lead to the end of U.S. sanctions against Burma. The aide also cited exchanges of visits by officials from both countries.
Obama said Burma can forge a new relationship with Washington if it continues down the road of democratic reform, but warned of continued sanctions if the government fails to do that.