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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid