US Secretary of State to visit Myanmar
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Myanmar in response to several signs of change in the once-pariah regime, US President Barack Obama announced Friday.
"After years of darkness we've seen flickers of progress these last several weeks," Obama said in Bali, Indonesia, where he is attending a meeting of Asian leaders, DPA reported.
Clinton's trip was to take place on December 1 and 2, Obama's office said.
Important recent political steps in Myanmar included releasing about 200 political prisoners and easing restrictions on the media, the US president said.
"We want to seize what could be an historic opportunity for progress," Obama said.
The military junta in 2010 held its first election in 20 years and released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after years of house arrest.
Obama's announcement came after the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on Thursday to allow Myanmar to chair the regional bloc in 2014, citing "significant progress" toward democratization.
The chair is rotated every year in an alphabetical order, but Myanmar was skipped in 2006 because of pressure over its poor human rights record.
Obama said Myanmar needed to do more to advance reform and warned that it would continue to face sanctions and isolation if it failed to do so.
"If it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail, and millions of people may get the chance to live with a greater measure of freedom, prosperity, and dignity," he said.
Obama held talks with ASEAN leaders as a group, including Myanmar President Thein Sein, later Friday.
New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged ASEAN to set tougher conditions for Myanmar's chairmanship, saying an estimated 1,669 political prisoners remain behind bars.