US President Barack Obama will make a groundbreaking visit to Myanmar later this month, an official said yesterdday, following through with his policy of rapprochement to encourage democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
The official, speaking from the capital, Naypyitaw, said security for a visit on Nov. 18 or Nov. 19 had been prepared, but that the schedule was not final. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to give information to the media.
The official said Obama would meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as government officials, including reformist Burmese President Thein Sein.
It would be the first-ever visit to Myanmar by a US president. US officials have not yet announced any plans for a visit. Obama’s administration has sought to encourage the recent democratic progress under Thein Sein by easing sanctions applied against Myanmar’s previous military regime.
Officials in Thailand and Cambodia have already informally announced plans for visits by Obama that same week. Cambodia is hosting an ASEAN summit meeting and Thailand is a longtime close US ally.
The visit to Myanmar would be the culmination of a dramatic turnaround in relations with Washington as the country has shifted from five decades of ruinous military rule and shaken off the pariah status it had earned through its bloody suppression of democracy.
The Obama administration regards the political changes in Myanmar as a marquee achievement in its foreign policy, and one that could dilute the influence of China in a country that has a strategic location between South and Southeast Asia, regions of growing economic importance.