President Obama in landmark visit to Burma
President Obama has praised Burma for its “remarkable journey” to reform on the first state visit to Burma by any serving US President.
The highlight of his trip was a talk at Rangoon University, where he lauded the nation’s “flickers of progress”. Obama additionally stated that America would keep its promise and “extend the hand of friendship” to countries embracing democracy.
He also met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest. Suu Kyi thanked the President for his visit and support but also warned there could be tough times ahead.
Activists have questioned why the visit had to come so soon, emphasising that there are still political prisoners and unresolved ethnic conflict in border areas.
Speaking in Thailand before his visit, Obama denied he was to give his endorsement to the country: “I don’t think anybody is under the illusion that Burma’s arrived, that they’re where they need to be,” he said. “On the other hand, if we waited to engage until they had achieved a perfect democracy, my suspicion is we’d be waiting an awful long time.”
During the six-hour visit, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also attended, President Obama announced a US ambassador was to be posted in Burma as well as economic sanctions on the country to be lifted.
Obama’s South-East Asia visit comes just two weeks after his re-election, aimed to show how serious he is of the so-called ‘Asia pivot’, the shifting of US strategic focus to counter-act China but also as military tours in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down.