U.S. and Myanmar Nov20

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Melissa Dewberry

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U.S. and Myanmar

Social Issues – In a historic speech to isolated Myanmar, President Obama finally found a taker Friday for his Inauguration speech offer to extend aid to rogue states “if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

The U.S. “sees Myanmar as responding to the three-year-old offer of engagement, a major shift for the former military-run dictatorship long under China’s protection and influence.”

Obama sealed the deal with the Southeast Asian nation when he announced he would send Hillary Rodham Clinton for what would be the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years.

China immediately responded to the warming of relations with a veiled threat to its smaller, weaker ally – telling it to not get too close to Washington.

Obama said of Myanmar, “After several years of darkness, we’ve seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks.” He announced Clinton’s trip on the sidelines of a summit in Bali, Indonesia of East Asian leaders, including Myanmar’s President Thein Sein.

In his speech, Obama heralded the release of political prisoners, the easing of media restrictions, a tentative opening of the political system, and a dialogue between the government and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The blossoming friendship between the U.S. and Myanmar, better known as Burma, could have far-reaching positive effects for the country, including much-needed investment and market opportunities. It is also likely to elevate Myanmar’s status with its Southeast Asian neighbors, many of which are growing increasingly wary of China’s dominance in the region.

While many remain skeptical of Myanmar’s commitment to reform, after decades of repression and isolation under the military regime that ruled for more than half a century, leaders there seem eager “to come in from the cold.”

Read more at the Associated Press.