Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, Burma, from November 30 to December 2. This historic trip marked the first visit to Burma by a U.S. Secretary of State in over a half a century. Secretary Clinton underscored the U.S. commitment to a policy of principled engagement and direct dialogue as part of our dual-track approach. During a press availability in Nay Pyi Taw, Secretary Clinton said:
"Let me start by saying that I want to emphasize that while I may be the first United States Secretary of State to visit in over a half century, our two nations are far from strangers. We've had a long history together, from the earliest American missionaries to generations of traders and merchants to the shared sacrifices of World War Two. The United States was among the first to recognize this country's independence, and we have welcomed the many contributions of Burmese Americans to our own culture and prosperity. And Americans from all walks of life are following closely the events here.
"So I come with a great deal of interest and awareness of what is happening. And on behalf of my country and President Obama, I came to assess whether the time is right for a new chapter in our shared history. Today, I met with President Thein Sein, his foreign minister, other senior ministers, and the speakers and members of parliament in both houses. We had candid, productive conversations about the steps taken so far, and the path ahead for reform."
Secretary Clinton also consulted with a broad and diverse group of civil society and ethnic minority leaders to gain their perspectives on developments in the country, and met with Aung San Suu Kyi. Following their meeting, Secretary Clinton said:
"...I want to begin by not only thanking you [Aung San Suu Kyi] for your hospitality and welcoming us all here to your home today, but for your steadfast and very clear leadership of the opposition and of many here in Burma whose voices would not otherwise be heard, including ethnic nationalities.
"About the way forward, democracy is the goal. That has been the goal from the very beginning. And yet we know that it has been a long, very difficult path that has been followed. We do see openings today that, as Aung San Suu Kyi just said, give us some grounds for encouragement. My visit, both here with members of the opposition as well as representatives of civil society and the ethnic nationalities, in concert with my visit with government officials yesterday, is intended to explore the path forward.
"The United States wants to be a partner with Burma. We want to work with you as you further democratization, as you release all political prisoners, as you begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts that have gone on far too long, as you hold elections that are free, fair, and credible. But we also, because of our close work with you, know that there's much work to be done to build the capacity of the government. This is going to be an area that we will continue to consult closely with you to see what kind, as you said, technical assistance might be offered. The rule of law is essential in any democracy, and we will also look for ways we can work to further that.
"But let me conclude by underscoring that you have been an inspiration, but I know you feel that you are standing for all the people of your country who deserve the same rights and freedoms of people everywhere. The people have been courageous and strong in the face of great difficulty over too many years. We want to see this country take its rightful place in the world."
You can read more about Secretary Clinton's visit to Burma here.