US Looks to Next Phase in Burma Relations

By Lalit K Jha 12 October 2012

WASHINGTON—Following the successful visit to the US of Burma’s President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Obama administration is sending another of its top diplomats, William Burns, to Burma next week to draw out a “road map” for the next phase in the countries’ bilateral relationship.

US Deputy Secretary of State Burns is scheduled to arrive in Naypyidaw on Oct. 18 when he will meet the Burmese president, members of his government, and Suu Kyi, according to US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, speaking to reporters at her daily news conference.

Burns has included Burma as part of his five-nation week-long Asia trip that will take him to Japan, South Korea, China and India. Burma will be on the agenda for discussions with officials of all these countries during the visit, said Nuland.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the US praised Burmese counter-drug efforts. “After a long hiatus, Burma has expressed fresh interest in international counter-drug cooperation,” the Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said in his address to a UN General Assembly Committee on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and International Drug Control.

“The United States hopes to renew its collaborative efforts with Burma to address problems of opium cultivation and amphetamine-type stimulant production. In one of our most important partnerships, we have intensified our cooperation with China on improving controls of precursor chemicals,” Nicholas said.

A US State Department official also said the US would continue its dialogue with Burma on the Rohingya issue. “Our dialogue is ongoing and we will continue to engage with both governments, other countries affected by Rohingya displacement in the region, and the international community in an effort to seek, comprehensive, sustainable, and just solution,” the official said.

“The United States has remained steadfast supporters of continued assistance to Bangladesh and Burma through international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations and development partners,” he said. “We have long advocated for protection for vulnerable Rohingya and will continue to do so.”