On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s First Prime Minister U Nu Met Eisenhower in Washington

By Wei Yan Aung 3 July 2020

Yangon — On this day in 1955 in Washington, the then prime minister U Nu presented US$5,000 (around 25,000 kyats at the time) to then US president Dwight Eisenhower for the widows of US servicemen killed fighting Japanese forces in Myanmar (then Burma) and disabled veterans.

The prime minister also presented gifts — an ivory gong and a silver tobacco box — to the former Allied war commander, who returned one of his own paintings of a rural landscape, during their meeting at the White House.

The newly independent state was looking to establish itself on the world stage in the 1950s. U Nu visited the UK, Israel, Japan, the USA and Yugoslavia. He was welcomed by then vice-president Richard Nixon upon arrival in the US.

During his 3½ week trip, U Nu visited famous sites, met well-known figures and lectured on peace in Southeast Asia, his non-aligned diplomatic policy and the potential for Chinese-US friendship.

U Nu was accompanied by his secretary U Thant, who became the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations two years later before eventually becoming the third UN secretary-general.

In his autobiography, “Saturday’s Son”, U Nu wrote that he was invited to make a speech at the National Press Club by its president, Lucian Warren, during his US visit. Warren reportedly said government leaders usually asked for financial help and other types of assistance when they visited Washington and their visits, therefore, provided little of interest to US newspapers. But unlike them, rather than asking for help, U Nu made donations to the veterans’ association and thus provided news for US newspapers.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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