US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become the most senior American official to visit Myanmar in over half a century.
Her aim is to assess the reclusive state’s commitment to democratic reform. The White House warns that sanctions will continue if Myanmar fails to maintain progress on political and economic change.
The country formerly known as Burma was ruled by a military junta for nearly five decades until last year. It stood down to cede power to a civilian government that has gradually reversed previous policies by holding elections, loosening media censorship and releasing some political prisoners.
One of those was opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released last year after spending 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement.
Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy Party boycotted last year’s vote, will meet Clinton later on Thursday.
She told reporters in Washington via videolink on Wednesday that the government still has a lot to do on human rights and defusing ethnic conflict before sanctions can be eased.
Some observers believe the US’ recent diplomatic initiatives in Myanmar are part of a broader effort to bolster its influence in south-east Asia, where fellow superpower China has made significant investments.