Friday, December 2, 2011

U.S. welcomes Burma’s decision to cut military ties with North Korea

Friday, 02 December 2011 18:46 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her three-day visit to Burma on Friday, saying she welcomed the Burmese government’s promise to break off its military relationship with North Korea and it’s commitment to keep implementing democratic reforms.

She told a press conference in Naypyitaw, the capital, after her meeting with President Thein Sein and other key government officials on Thursday: “We look to the government to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and we support the government’s stated determination to sever military ties with North Korea.” The UN resolutions imposed an arms embargo against North Korea.

Reporters in Rangoon question U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the last day of her three-day visit to Burma. Photo: Mizzima

Secretary Clinton also said that if Burma wants to establish a relationship with the U.S., it must abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On Tuesday, a senior U.S. official said in a press conference held in Busan, South Korea, that Clinton would raise the issue of secret ties between Burma and North Korea and the case that Burma reportedly received missile technology from North Korea.

It was difficult to know how the authorities made decisions in Burma, said the official, who referred to North Korean missile technology that Burma reportedly received.

Lower House speaker and former military leader No. 3, Thura Shwe Mann, said Burma had military ties with North Korea, but he denied it had tried to get North Korean nuclear technology.

“Some allegations said that some officials including me went there and signed an agreement regarding nuclear aid. That’s not true,” Thura Shwe Mann said in a press conference in Naypyitaw on Thursday.

He said that to promote Burma’s defense system, Burma signed a military cooperation agreement with North Korea, and he observed North Korea’s defense systems against air attacks, its ammunition plants and air force and navy operations.

“The U.S. has a very good intelligence system. It has not only people intelligence but also intelligence satellites. When I went to North Korea as a general in the past, the U.S. knew about it. It knows what we were doing,” he said.

During Clinton’s visit to Burma, she discussed upgrading its diplomatic relationship and helping Burma in areas of human trafficking, seeking peace in ethnic areas, clearing landmines, education and granting small-scale loans.

She also urged the government to let human rights organizations enter Burma, to release all political prisoners and to ensure a free and fair by-election.

“In response, I said I pledged that we will do as much as we can in order that all citizens including political prisoners can be involved in building the nation and for the sake of national reconciliation,” Thura Shwe Mann said after meeting with Clinton.

Clinton also met with Union Assembly Speaker Khin Aung Myint, who later told members of Parliament that political prisoners would be released when the time comes.

On Friday, before her departure from Rangoon, Clinton also met with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the second time, and National League for Democracy central committee members, in addition to ethnic representatives and local social organizations.

The following are excerpts from the official transcript of Clinton’s press conference on Thursday:

On National Reconciliation:

National reconciliation remains a defining challenge, and more needs to be done to address the root causes of conflict and to advance an inclusive dialogue that will finally bring peace to all of the people. We discussed these and many other challenges ahead, including the need to combat illegal trafficking in persons, weapons, and drugs. And I was very frank in stating that better relations with the United States will only be possible if the entire government respects the international consensus against the spread of nuclear weapons. We look to the government to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and we support the government’s stated determination to sever military ties with North Korea.

On President Thein Sein:

His government has eased some restrictions on the media and civil society, opened a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, rewritten election and labor laws, and released 200 prisoners of conscience. The president told me he seeks to build on these steps, and I assured him that these reforms have our support. I also told him that while the measures already taken may be unprecedented and certainly welcome, they are just a beginning. It is encouraging that political prisoners have been released, but over a thousand are still not free. Let me say publicly what I said privately earlier today. No person in any country should be detained for exercising universal freedoms of expression, assembly, and conscience.

He laid out a comprehensive vision of reform, reconciliation, and economic development for his country, including specifics such as the release of political prisoners, an inclusive political process, and free, fair, and credible bi-elections, a rigorous peace and reconciliation process to bring to an end some of the longest-standing conflicts anywhere in the world, and strong assurances regarding his country’s compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and their nonproliferation commitments with respect to North Korea.

On Aung San Suu Kyi:

It is also encouraging that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to take part in the political process. But that, too, will not be sufficient unless all political parties can open offices throughout the country and compete in free, fair, and credible elections. We welcome initial steps from the government to reduce ethnic tensions and hostilities. But as long as terrible violence continues in some of the world’s longest-running internal conflicts, it will be difficult to begin a new chapter.

This country’s diversity, its dozens of ethnic groups and languages, its shrines, pagodas, mosques, and churches should be a source of strength in the 21st century. And I urged the president to allow international humanitarian groups, human rights monitors and journalists access to conflict zones.

On ethnic groups:

National reconciliation remains a defining challenge, and more needs to be done to address the root causes of conflict and to advance an inclusive dialogue that will finally bring peace to all of the people.

On economic sanctions:

With regard to sanctions, we’re in the early stages of our dialogue. And I want to state for the record that my visit today is the result of over two years of work on our behalf. We’ve had at least 20 high-level visits. We have Assistant Secretary Campbell, and our former representative Scott Marciel. We’ve had a very active engagement by our chargé, and then we filled the position that the Congress created for a permanent special representative with Ambassador Derek Mitchell.

So for more than two years, ever since I asked that we do a review of our Burma policy in 2009, we have been reaching out, we’ve been trying to gather information, because we wanted to see change for the benefit of all of the people. And so we have been working toward this, and the reason that we were finally able to reach the decision that the president announced for me to visit is because of the steps that the government has taken.

We know more needs to be done, however, and we think that we have to wait to make sure that this commitment is real. So we’re not only talking to senior members of the government, but we’re talking to civil society members, we’re talking to members of the political opposition, we’re talking to representatives of ethnic minorities, because we want to be sure that we have as full a picture as possible.

So we’re not at the point yet that we can consider lifting sanctions that we have in place because of our ongoing concerns about policies that have to be reversed. But any steps that the government takes will be carefully considered and will be, as I said, matched because we want to see political and economic reform take hold. And I told the leadership that we would certainly consider the easing and elimination of sanctions as we go forward in this process together. And it has to be not theoretical or rhetorical. It has to be very real, on the ground, [something] which can be evaluated. But we are open to that, and we are going to pursue many different avenues to demonstrate our continuing support for this path of reform.

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