Campbell on the hot seat
The State Department unveiled its new approach to Burma yesterday, giving some details of the new U.S. policy of mixing engagement with pressure. Congress will get its chance to weigh in tomorrow, when Burma is the focus of a hearing led by engagement champion and Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Assistant Secretary of State for East ...
The State Department unveiled its new approach to Burma yesterday, giving some details of the new U.S. policy of mixing engagement with pressure. Congress will get its chance to weigh in tomorrow, when Burma is the focus of a hearing led by engagement champion and Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell will be the star witness at tomorrow’s Senate hearing, which will also include Burmese historian Thant Myint-U and Georgetown University scholar David Steinberg, both of whom are sympathetic to Webb’s position.
Webb is not waiting for anyone to endorse his engagement policy, however. He agreed to meet with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein in New York, only the latest of his many meetings with Burmese officials since his trip there last month. Webb’s shuttle diplomacy between Burma, Washington, and New York has come under fire from some Burmese pro-democracy groups and from the neoconservative foreign-policy crowd.
Campbell previewed his testimony, and the administration’s new Burma policy, in a State Department press conference on Monday.
“For the first time in memory, the Burmese leadership has shown an interest in engaging with the United States, and we intend to explore that interest,” Campbell said, quickly noting that recently renewed ties between Burmese leaders and North Korea spoke to the urgency of engaging Burma.
Using a step-by-step approach, the United States will have a direct dialogue with Burmese military leadership, and lift sanctions only after progress is shown on the Burmese side, Campbell said. Human rights will be part of the discussions, as well as Burmese compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1874 and 1718, which severely restrict North Korea’s ability to import or export weapons.
“In terms of sanctions, we will maintain existing sanctions until we see concrete progress towards reform,” Campbell said, “We recognize that this will likely be a long and difficult process.”
He also promised that the United States would continue to press for the release of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who apparently is open to discussing the lifting of sanctions, according to Thailand’s pro-democracy Irrawaddy newspaper.
Junko Kimura/Getty Images
Josh Rogin is a former staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshrogin
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