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03 December 2023

US 'action' if Myanmar continues reforms: Clinton


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that Washington was committed to "walking down the path of reform" with Myanmar, adding that new reforms would be met with further US rewards.

Clinton spoke to the country's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin as well as to opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, one day after the United States said it would restore diplomatic ties with the former Burma.

"In both calls, the secretary welcomed the announcement of the release of hundreds of political prisoners and a ceasefire" with ethnic Karen rebels, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Clinton "underscored that the United States is committed to walking down the path of reform with the people and government of Burma," Nuland said.

The secretary of state told her counterpart in Myanmar that "the United States is prepared to meet action with action."

Myanmar's decision to pardon dissidents, journalists and a former premier injected new momentum into a surprising flurry of reform in the long-isolated state and into US-led efforts to offer incentives to solidify the process.

Clinton, who made a landmark visit to Myanmar last year to prod the reforms, said Friday she would begin the "lengthy" process of upgrading US representation in Myanmar from charge d'affaires level.

"We will identify a candidate to serve as US ambassador to represent the United States government and our broader efforts to strengthen and deepen our ties with both the people and the government," she said.

The United States had withdrawn its ambassador in 1990 in protest after military rulers refused to accept the results of elections won by Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Myanmar said Saturday that of some 650 inmates freed the day before in its most significant amnesty yet, more than 300 of them were political prisoners.

The country's government, which in March last year replaced a long-ruling military junta, has surprised US officials with its reform drive.

Clinton urged Myanmar to take further steps to "unconditionally release all remaining political prisoners, end violence and human rights abuses in ethnic areas, and address international concerns about Burma's military ties to North Korea," Nuland said.

In her call with Suu Kyi, the State Department said Clinton spoke about the upcoming April by-election, in which the NLD will participate and Suu Kyi plans to stand for a seat in parliament.

The Nobel peace laureate in turn "noted her support for the US efforts to engage the government of Burma," Nuland said.