Friday, April 16, 2021
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Jim Webb, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma’s Small Progress

Senator Webb has called for lifting all economic sanctions against Burma. What seem slowly unfolding changes in that nation after decades of tyranny are significant achievements on two fronts. They merit the potential galvanizing effects of Webb's proposal.
"Many people are beginning to say that the democratisation process here is irreversible. It's not so." - Aung San Suu Kyi
The strange new territory the relationship between the United States and Burma may enter is one that could shape the application of power into the future. It is promising.  For once the United States may have imposed its will on an adversary without resorting to military intervention. Next it establishes a dynamic in the relationship where both parties pursue interests that are complementary and mutually beneficial while continued reform is its own reward. This is a balancing act. American temperament and policy usually reflect our impatience and many will challenge what may be perceived as acting too swiftly. But the window of opportunity will not remain open forever. Six months from now, when our attention is elsewhere and we have not acted, there will be no reason for Burma's leadership to perform in crisis in any way differently than has kept them in power to date.

Webb Bags Burma Over Possible Nuclear Program

From Senator Webb's office, the following press release was issued after Webb had concluded visits to Thailand and South Korea. Burma, of course, is one of the most corrupt, repressive regimes in the world. The thought of the Burmese military junta in possession of nuclear weapons is not a pleasant one.
News reports published today contain new allegations regarding the possibility that the Burmese government has been working in conjunction with North Korea in order to develop a nuclear program.  From the initial accounts, a defecting officer from the Burmese military claims direct knowledge of such plans, and reportedly has furnished documents to corroborate his claims.

It is unclear whether these allegations have substantive merit.  However, given the fact that Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell recently accused Burma of violating UN Security Council Resolution 1874 with respect to a suspected shipment of arms from North Korea, there are now two unresolved matters related to activities of serious concern between these two countries.  Until there is further clarification on these matters, I believe it would be unwise and potentially counterproductive for me to visit Burma.

I strongly believe that a continuation of dialogue between our two countries is important for the evolution of a more open governmental system and for the future strategic balance in Southeast Asia.  However, a productive dialogue will be achievable only when these two matters are further clarified.

In the interim period, I intend to strongly suggest to the President that he fulfill the requirements of Public Law 110-286 and immediately appoint a special envoy to address the entire range of issues regarding relations between the United States and Burma.