News / Asia

Obama Announces Major New Diplomatic Initiative on Burma

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Friday a major new diplomatic initiative responding to positive changes in Burma, saying he is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton there next month.

Just hours before he attended the annual U.S.-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in Bali ahead of the East Asia leaders summit, President Obama came to the microphones to announce the major initiative.

Related video report by William ide

While flying to Bali on Air Force One, he said he had spoken with Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi - the first conversation they have had.

Obama said they reviewed progress in Burma, where the government - though still heavily influenced by the military - has begun opening the country and loosening restrictions. 

He said next month Secretary Clinton will go to Rangoon and Naypyidaw, the new capital constructed by Burma's military, for discussions to explore possible further progress in relations between the two countries.

"Today I have asked Secretary Hillary Clinton to go to Burma.  She will be the first American secretary of state to travel to the country in over half a century, and she will explore whether the United States can empower a positive transition in Burma, and begin a new chapter between our countries," he said.

Obama said Americans have been deeply concerned for decades about the denial of basic human rights for the Burmese people, including persecution of democracy reformers, brutality toward ethnic minorities, and concentration of power in military leaders.

Referring to what he called "flickers of progress" in Burma after "years of darkness,” he pointed to steps taken by Burma's President Thein Sein and parliament to begin a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, release some political prisoners, relax media restrictions, and open the political environment.

Obama called these measures the most important steps toward reform in Burma seen in years. But he said more needs to be done.

"We remain concerned about Burma's closed political system, its treatment of minorities, and holding of political prisoners and its relationship with North Korea," he added. "But 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."

In his conversation with Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr. Obama said she confirmed that she supports U.S. engagement to help move the reform process forward.  Obama says Burma's government could deliver a positive signal to Secretary Clinton.

"If Burma fails to move down the path of reform it will continue to face sanctions and isolation," he said. "But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail and millions of people may get the chance to live with a greater measure of freedom, prosperity and dignity, and that possibility is too important to ignore."

Obama said he would reinforce these messages on Friday in the U.S. - ASEAN meeting, attended by Burma's president, and that Secretary Clinton would deliver the same messages when she visits Burma next month.

A senior administration official noted that any discussions Obama has with the Burmese president would not technically be described as a bilateral meeting.

Obama said the U.S. decided to respond to positive developments in Burma and clearly demonstrate America's commitment to the future of an "extraordinary country, a courageous people, and universal values."

The Obama administration has pursued a policy of engagement and pressure with Burma.  U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 remain in effect, though Burma's government has called on Washington to end them.

Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest last year, during Obama's last major trip in Asia.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid