On Monday President Obama made history when he became the first American president to visit Myanmar. The trip is meant to highlight his success in pushing the country's generals to enact changes that have unfolded with surprising speed over the past year.
While the six-hour visit was criticized by human rights groups that thought it was too soon to visit a country that had not yet completed the process of democratic reform, the president called it "just the first step on a long journey," Reuters reports.
Obama, greeted by enthusiastic crowds in the former capital, Yangon, met President Thein Sein, a former junta member who has spearheaded reforms since taking office in March 2011, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"I shared with President Thein Sein our belief that the process of reform that he is taking is one that will move this country forward," Obama told reporters, with Thein Sein at his side.
"I recognise that this is just the first steps on what will be a long journey, but we think that a process of democratic reform and economic reform here in Myanmar … can lead to incredible development opportunities here," Obama said, using the country name preferred by the government and former junta, rather than Burma, which is used in the United States.
Thein Sein, speaking in Burmese with an interpreter translating his remarks, responded that the two sides would move forward, "based on mutual trust, respect and understanding".
"We also reached agreement for the development of democracy in Myanmar and for promotion of human rights to be aligned with international standards," he added.
Obama's Southeast Asian trip, less than two weeks after his re-election, was aimed at showing how serious he is about shifting the U.S. strategic focus eastwards as America winds down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The so-called "Asia pivot" is also meant to counter China's rising influence …
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