Ambassador Mitchell's Press Briefing
covering burma and southeast asia
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Ambassador Mitchell's Press Briefing

By THE IRRAWADDY Friday, December 16, 2011

(Page 2 of 4)

On previous trips, incidentally, I’ve been to Bangkok and to Jakarta and I’ve done some other visits locally. I haven’t been able to get here. I wanted to get here in October, but other requirements kept me from that. So this is my first opportunity, really, to talk to Japan, Korea and China on this critical regional issue. Again, part of my job is to coordinate—to explain, coordinate our policy.

So China, again, I came here with that message. I think we’re at the early stages. It’s something very new in the bilateral relationship. I don’t think we’ve had a very in-depth conversation on what’s going on there. So we just exchanged perspectives with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and laid down some ideas, like I did just before, about the types of things we might want to cooperate on. We’ll see what Beijing’s response will be, what the government’s response will be, but we hope that over time we will be able to find those areas of cooperation that will be helpful to Burma’s continued reform and to regional stability.

QUESTION: My second question, as we know, after Secretary Clinton went to Burma there was belief that there is something changed in the relations between the U.S. and Burma. Could you talk about the change? And what kind of role will Burma play in the U.S. foreign policy? As we know, China and Burma have long-term cooperation in economics and other things. Will it bring some influences to the relations between China and Burma?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: If I answer those I’ll figure no one has any more questions. [Laughter]. That should cover it all.

The change in the relationship post- the Secretary’s visit. The relationship continues to evolve. I think certainly the Secretary’s visit has a positive impact on the bilateral relationship - the U.S. and Burma - there’s no question about it. I think it’s based on the changes going on inside Burma. As they continue to reform, then the United States will be responding in kind with increasing assistance, increasing partnership in the process.

I think the relationship has been warming up for some time. I just started my job in August. I’ve made four trips including the latest with the Secretary, so three on my own. I think each time we’ve been building trust, building contacts, building a relationship. I met the Foreign Minister maybe five times in the past three or four months, or more. And all of that I think does build momentum in the bilateral relationship. So yes, I think the relationship is better after the Secretary’s visit because it was a very productive visit.

The role of Burma in U.S. foreign policy. Burma is an essential component of ASEAN, it’s a member of ASEAN. ASEAN’s cohesion and viability is an important American interest. It’s an important interest to the region, regional stability. For too long Burma’s been an outlier because of its under-development and its policies. It’s been really inconsistent with the way the region has gone. We are very encouraged that it looks like the Burmese government and Burmese society are finding ways forward that are building a path towards reform, and hopefully a path towards democracy and openness and development for all its people, and national reconciliation. And if that happens, then the United States will continue to partner with them and it will be hopefully a stabilizing force in the region rather than what it has been, which is potentially a destabilizing force in the region.

So America’s interest in Asia is for stability. Peace and stability and development. And we’re seeing that now occur inside Burma step by step. Obviously there’s a long way to go. We have a lot of questions about the future, I should say. But we’re seeing at least trends in the right direction. So we want to encourage those trends and they’re consistent with the U.S. interest in Asia and interest in peace and stability, broadly and in the viability of ASEAN specifically.

The influence on China-Burma relations. There is no intent of the United States in its relationship with Burma to have any negative influence on China-Burma relations. It is not meant to come at the expense of any country. It is not in the interest of the United States that Burma have tense relationships with its neighbors, in fact the contrary, that it’s in the interest of regional peace and stability and development that Burma have good relationships with its neighbors, that there not be division within the region, that there be cooperation and coordination of approaches, and that we have a unified approach or at least we’re working in coordination together.

China and Burma have, as I said, a long history as well as a long border. They have as you say deep economic relations in the past, and that’s between those two nations to determine their future.

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Norman Hla Wrote:
The Director General of Asian Affairs, Luo Zhaohui might need to explain use of Veto card of China and gaining Burma business from than shwe imply conflict of interest or not. If China continue to use Veto for favoring than shwe , China should not do business with Burma for ethical reason(to avoid conflict of interest).US clearly states Burma must have good relationship with its neighbor(China)with the use of political solution for all ethnics issue.US means that DASSK must be good with China. Cheer US’s action for having ethical and good intention to Burmese citizens. The ball is in China hand to favor DASSK or brutal than shwe military thugs now. Let see if China leaders love Burmese and have their kind hearts for our 60 years suffering, esp ethnics who are mostly Chinese descents. One says DASSK’s mother has Karen blood. DASSK refused U nu’s(Karen killer) party forming in 1988up-rising.CheerDS.

Derek Wrote:
This morning I joked with a taxi driver that next year the taxi owner could trade the 1972 Blue Mazda for an import permit that would leave him unemployed.

We both agreed an equitable solution could be for Toyota to open an assembly plant in Myanmar and then he could have drive an air conditioned hybrid Camry.

Considering the often rugged terrain a 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek could be a more appropriate vehicle for local conditions.

In addition to the factory workers paying income tax with new found regular employment they could be sold a 25 yr mortgage and reside in one of the new 5 star condominiums planned for Yangon.

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