The U.S. Government’s Actions on Burmese Military Regime
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
September 27, 2010
QUESTION: And on the other hand, I’ve spoken to ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin after that ASEAN-U.S. summit, and he told me that it was only the foreign minister of Burma who mentioned about the upcoming election in passing, and President Obama didn’t say anything, or it wasn’t talked about in that meeting. Can you confirm that? And does that indicate somehow the election in Burma is not so much a priority for the U.S.?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we had very deep discussions on a range of issues, and I’m not going to characterize every detail of the discussions that took place between the leaders. But the U.S. position has been very clear over the course of the last several weeks that we are disappointed by the steps that the government has taken in advance of the upcoming election, and we see no signs that there will be legitimacy associated with this process. And recent reports that balloting will be deeply restricted in ethnic areas is worrisome.
All that being said, we also recognize that after the elections, there may be a different correlation of players, different relationships, different actors that may emerge that could create the opportunity for some sort of engagement that would advance not only American interests, but the interests of others in the region and the dispossessed inside the country as a whole.
QUESTION: Because you have visited the country since the last (inaudible) year when America turned their policy from not talking to engagement. What sort of achievements that has resulted so far, you think?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think we’ve tried to be very honest and very clear in our assessments of our engagement strategy to date, and I think the benefits have been quite limited. And we have tried to underscore that this will be a longstanding process. It will not be an easy road, but that previous efforts at total isolation have failed as has frankly the efforts of complete open-arms engagement. We think the mixture of tactics and our overall approach are the right way to proceed, but we also understand that this overall effort is going to require substantial patience.
I will say that we think one of the benefits has been it has allowed us to have a different kind of dialogue with ASEAN. And I think in the past, our policy on Burma, on Myanmar, has made it difficult for certain kinds of engagement. I think the truth is that there is an overriding strategic priority on the part of the United States for a stronger engagement with ASEAN. We’ve attempted to undertake such a dialogue, such an engagement strategy. But at the same time, we’ve tried to stay true to our principles in being very clear about what our expectations are in terms of inside the country as a whole.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question for Japan-China region. So Japan come to China with compensation demands for coast guard ship damages, so even after the release of the captain, there still remain (inaudible). But do you also agree that Burma has been already (inaudible)? How do you see that situation?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m not going to characterize the subsequent back and forth on these issues. I would simply say that I think that the Japanese decision to release the captain – it’s a difficult decision – but I think does show statesmanship on the part of the Kan administration and also the – of new Foreign Minister Maehara.
QUESTION: Oh, hi. It’s back on Myanmar or Burma. A couple of Security Council members, including (inaudible) the U.S. has called for a UN panel of inquiry into war crimes committed in Burma, and a lot of people have said that it can’t happen until after the election. Is that a possibility the U.S. is considering when you talk about new relationship (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah. I don’t think I’ll have very much to say on that issue at this time. I think what we have tried to indicate is that we have not ruled anything out either on this issue or others, including sanctions on the way forward. We are looking at what transpires in November in terms of the way forward. And we reserve the right to take steps either to respond to positive steps or negative ones.