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The United States will meet next week with Burma’s foreign minister in the second such talks this month to explore “winds of change” it sees in the nation, a senior official said Wednesday.
Derek Mitchell, the newly appointed US coordinator on Burma, closed his first visit Wednesday to the country and urged “genuine and concrete” reforms by the military-backed regime.
A senior US official accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a trip to San Francisco said the United States planned “intense deliberations” next week when Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin visits New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
“There are clear winds of change blowing through Burma. We are trying to get a sense of how strong those winds are and whether it’s possible to substantially improve our relationship,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The official, however, reiterated that the United States still had “real concerns” in Burma, including the military’s “horrible brutalities” against ethnic minority guerrillas and troops’ treatment of women.
Burma last year held rare elections after which the military nominally handed power to civilians, although the opposition and the United States have criticized both steps as shams.
The new leadership has also opened talks with opposition icon and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed after spending most of the past two decades under house arrest.
Clinton was visiting San Francisco for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and annual talks between the US and Australian foreign affairs and defense chiefs.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited Burma in July and has since had “discreet conversations” with Clinton on how to move forward, the US official traveling with Clinton said.
Rudd, speaking to the United States about the situation in Burma, said it was “too soon to call it overly hopeful” but highlighted “most probably the most significant developments on the ground in decades,” the US official said.
President Barack Obama’s administration opened dialogue with Burma after taking office in 2009, concluding that the previous policy of trying to isolate the regime has failed.
Obama has maintained sanctions on Burma, including over its lucrative gem trade, but has said that it is willing to ease restrictions in return for progress on democratization.