Thursday, April 2, 2009

US wants common Burma strategy with Asia

(DVB-AFP)—The United States wants to forge a common strategy with Asia to coax military-run Burma out of isolation, a senior official said Wednesday, suggesting six-way talks with North Korea could be a model.

President Barack Obama's administration has launched a review of policy on Burma, where a US official last week paid the first visit by a senior envoy in more than seven years.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said the United States wanted a "collaborative and constructive" approach on Burma, saying nations with sway over the junta should avoid "recreating a mini version of the Great Game."

"Viewing relations with a notorious authoritarian regime like Burma as a zero-sum game is in no nation's interest," Steinberg told the National Bureau of Asian Research, a think-tank.

"We want to discuss a common approach with ASEAN, with China, with India and with Japan to find a policy that will improve the lives of the people of Burma and promote stability in this key region," he said.

Asian nations including those in ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have mostly tried to engage with Burma. China is the key trade and military partner of the junta, which crushed 2007 protests led by Buddhist monks.

The Asian approach contrasts with that of the United States and the European Union, which have slapped sanctions on the regime to pressure it to improve human rights and free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Steinberg said the US "core objectives" would remain the same after the review -- to seek a "more open" Burma that respects the rights of its people and integrates into the global economy.

"We all have a common interest in working together to get a constructive solution that convinces the junta that the path they are pursuing is not in their interest," he said.

He said Burma was an issue on which the United States was open to setting up new "flexible" frameworks similar to the six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program.

"The solution to many global problems will not always be in creating new formal institutions or new bureaucracies," he said.

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