Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent trip to Burma marked the first visit there by the United States’ top diplomat in more than half a century. This historic visit, announced just last month at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was an outcome of the U.S. dual-track policy on Burma of principled engagement and pressure.
Throughout her meetings, the Secretary gained first-hand information on recent developments in Burma, encouraged its leaders to take additional steps to reform and move in a positive direction for the Burmese people, and urged the government to address the outstanding concerns of the international community. She also demonstrated the United States’ unwavering support for Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s democratic opposition.
President Thein Sein has taken the first steps toward a long-awaited opening. These include a dialogue between the government and pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of some political prisoners, a relaxation of media restrictions, and passage of legislation that could open the political environment.
While there are signs of progress, however, much more is needed. The United States remains concerned about Burma's closed political system, its treatment of ethnic minorities and holding more than 1,000 political prisoners, and its relationship with North Korea.
In the Secretary’s meetings, Burmese leaders assured the Secretary that progress would continue and broaden. And as it does, the United States will actively support those, both inside and outside of government, who genuinely seek reform. As Secretary Clinton indicated during her visit, the United States is prepared to walk the path of reform with the government of Burma if it chooses to keep moving in that direction.