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Suu Kyi meets British FM ahead of US visit

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, poses with Burmese State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi in London on 12 September 2016. (Photo: Boris Johnson / Twitter)

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi met British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London on Monday as part of a visit to the United Kingdom that comes ahead of a highly anticipated trip to the United States later this week.

Suu Kyi, who arrived in London on Saturday evening, spent part of the weekend briefing 12 Burmese ambassadors stationed in Europe and the Middle East on the foreign policy of her National League for Democracy-led government.

Speaking in her capacity as foreign minister, she urged the senior diplomats to protect Burmese nationals abroad and promote friendly bilateral ties in line with Burma’s non-aligned policy.

Before her meeting with Johnson, Suu Kyi met the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, at the Palace of Westminster and then visited the Royal College of Defence Studies, where she met General Christopher Deverell, the commander of the UK military’s joint forces command.

At her midday meeting on Monday with Johnson at Lancaster House in London’s West End, Suu Kyi discussed ways to boost relations between their two countries. Also on the agenda, according to state media reports, was the prospect of British investment in the agriculture, health and education sectors of the Burmese economy.

Following his meeting with the Burmese leader, Johnson said, “We remain committed to supporting Burma’s extraordinary reforms and we welcome a democratic, stable and prosperous Burma that can contribute to stability and security in South East Asia and beyond.”

As a longtime former resident of the UK whose closest surviving relatives — her two sons and their children — are British citizens, Suu Kyi also reportedly took time to meet with family members, including her son Kim Aris.

Suu Kyi’s brief sojourn in London — her first trip to a Western country since becoming Burma’s de facto leader earlier this year — will end on Wednesday when she heads to Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama and other political leaders.

Her 12-day visit to the United States, which will include a trip to New York on 21 September to address the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, will likely include consultation with the US president and lawmakers on the subject of remaining US sanctions on Burma — a legacy of the country’s era of military rule.

Besides strengthening ties with senior US politicians, Suu Kyi’s visit will also aim to drum up support for investment in Burma’s economy by US businesses, many of which remain reluctant to enter the country due to uncertainty about the prospects for lifting sanctions.

At present, the world’s largest economy is not even among the top 10 foreign investors in Burma.