News / Asia

    Obama Announces Major New Diplomatic Initiative on Burma

    Multimedia

    Audio

    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

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora