US Looking to Forge Military Ties with Burma

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (center) shakes hands with Japan's Senior Vice Minister of Defence Shu Watanabe as Australia's Defence Minister Stephen Smith looks on at a trilateral meeting in Singapore on Saturday. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Asian leaders on Saturday that the US is open to forging better military ties with Myanmar, if political and human rights reforms there continue.

His comments to a defense conference here reflected new efforts by the Obama administration to ease sanctions on the Asian nation, which is also known as Burma, as it moves to implement democratic reforms.

Assuming Myanmar is able to implement reforms and continue efforts to open up its political system, the Pentagon would be willing to have discussions about how the two nations can improve their military relationship, Panetta said.

“In dealing with countries of the Asia-Pacific region, this is not a Cold War situation where the US barges in, builds permanent bases and tries to establish a power base in this region,” Panetta said, responding to a question after his speech here at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a prominent defense conference.

In the world today, he said, the US has to engage with other countries to help them build their own military capabilities so they can defend themselves.

“We will encourage that kind of relationship with every nation that we deal with in this region, including Myanmar,” Panetta said.

A senior defense official traveling with Panetta said the secretary expects the government of Burma to continue on the path of reform and promotion of human rights, and once it shows progress then stronger military ties could be possible.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to reflect internal discussions.

Myanmar is emerging from decades of authoritarian rule and diplomatic isolation. Last month, US President Barack Obama eased an investment ban on Myanmar, and named the first US ambassador to the country in 22 years.

Human rights activists, however, criticized the move, saying it was too soon to reward the country since hundreds of political prisoners are still being held there.

Panetta’s speech was designed to promote America’s new effort to focus more attention on the Asia-Pacific region, both militarily and diplomatically.

10 Responses to US Looking to Forge Military Ties with Burma

  1. Suu Kyi said that the Burmese Army needs to be reformed. I agree. This new opening-up wouldn’t work if the majority of the generals oppose it.
    Having military ties with the US military might be the way to bring “change” to the Burmese military. It is good “Realpolitik”. Besides, a number of ASEAN countries like Philippines and Thailand have very close alliances with the US Army (without becoming American slaves!)

  2. Thought they were never going to ask…Phew! One M at least less than in the good old days of colonialism, eh? NGOs instead of missionaries. China pales in comparison with these experienced players.

  3. Just as Thaksin likes to act like FBI agent, Burmese soldiers of all sorts could not possibly wait to be associated with the most prolific killing out fit in the world.

    Yet regardless of the US military’s desire to bully and threaten the Chinese, US public should bear in mind that the Burmese military has been the worst perpetrators of inhumane acts on their own citizens for more than half a century and are at he very worst yet today in spite of the profuse sweet defense or silence on the current and vicious atrocities on own citizens by your own champion, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The Burmese public, somehow they are perceptive, especially when it comes to the foreigners and, even as Steinberg noted, are highly nationalistic. You see no Burmese plays Cricket. And it is no accident.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    That’s a GOOD IDEA no less.
    However, Min Aung Hlaing the current C-in-C of the Burma Army is CHINA’S CHOICE since day one and his boss Than Shwe is a STOOGE of the communists in Beijing after given 30 Billion Yuan on his last visit to China’s capital in 2009; Myintsone Dam Project was given the green light since then.
    Than Shwe has already bought a BILLION DOLLAR house in the Chinese capital as well.
    Daw Suu has OFT SPOKEN Burma’s FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY are CONDITIONAL on the Burma Army’s WILLINGNESS to OBLIGE in this matter if Panetta missed the point as well.
    A point to note also was the fact Min Aung Hlaing was SUMMONED to Beijing when US Secretary of State was visiting Burma a few months back.
    CHINESE ARE NO SUCKERS in this game in case the US Defense Secretary fails to note.
    Hence, BURMA IS UNDER THE HEELS of COMMUNIST CHINA until today since day one I say.
    Thein Sein, the Parliament and the STAGE SET at Naypyidaw are ALL ORCHESTRATED by Than Shwe, still the SENIOR GENERAL of the BURMA ARMY and UNDER THE TUTELAGE of the Chinese communists trust me.
    The BIG QUESTION today: HOW FAR COULD DAW SUU GO in that PUPPET PARLIAMENT headed by Thein Sein, the point man of Than Shwe’s, and the military – practically a mercenary armed contingent under the pay of the Chinese communists fighting to oust the KIA out of Kachin land today – backed regime at Naypidaw running Burma in line with Than Shwe drawn constitution enshrining the role of the NATIONAL DEFENSE and SECURITY COUNCIL, remaining ABOVE the PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT and LAW specifically today.
    Hence, Panetta should FOCUS on BOGEY MAN CHINA before giving thought over that matter for the better as well lest he forgets.

  5. Before US take any action,it should insist that Burma Generals invite the UN nucleaar power section to confirm that they have terminated their special relationship with North Korea.

  6. I was having quite a nice day until I read this…

  7. Too right Dave.

    Definately every thing the United States touches turn into…..

  8. Well I suppose the American have thought the idea inside-out.
    I really don’t tink its a good idea at this point but then having a strong dialoge might help the Myanmar guys out a bit.
    Isolation sometimes makes the individual sink in depression and do silly things.

  9. Comments are characterizing this as being particularly good or bad. It is neither, just pragmatic. They’ll practice maneuvers for things like disaster relief, so that, during the next typhoon, the militaries will be helping each other, rather than staring at each other at a distance through binoculars.

  10. Who is holding the real power of Burmese Army ?

    Is President U Thein Sein just a puppet?

    If the army does not cooperate with president how can he continue his reform process. Please show the great love to the country and the people suffering more than 60 years under the military rules.

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