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U.S. Sen. Jim Webb to visit Burma after by-election

(MIzzima) – U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, an early advocate of U.S. engagement with Burma, will visit Burma sometime after the April 1 by-election.

The senator was an early advocate of removing U.S. sanctions against Burma and moving toward an engagement policy, in part to reduce China’s influence in a strategic part of Southeast Asia.

    U.S.Sen. Jim Webb meets with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon in August 2009. Photo: webb.senate.govIn 2009, Webb was the first Member of Congress to visit Burma in more than 10 years, and he remains the only American official ever to meet with the country’s now-former senior leader, General Than Shwe.

He also met with Aung San Suu Kyi – who at that time remained under house arrest – and he obtained the release of American prisoner John Yettaw. 

Following Webb’s first trip, he called for increased confidence-building gestures in order to pursue better relations between the two governments. Webb has not been appreciated by some members of Burmese opposition. The U.S. has imposed financial sanctions as well as travel bans, freezing of assets on members of the junta and their relatives and an embargo on U.S. trade. Some minor sanctions were removed after the release of hundreds of political prisoners in 2011 and earlier this year.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited Webb’s efforts as important steps in the U.S. re-engagement with Burma, which is now experiencing a steady flow of statesmen and others eager to establish relations with the newly elected government. The U.S. said it would meet Burma step-by-step as it moves the country toward democracy.

Webb is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs and a member of the Senator Armed Services Committee. He will hold meetings with senior officials responsible for foreign affairs, commerce, energy and defense, as well as U.S. diplomats, U.S. military officials, leading academics and businesspeople.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 29 March 2012 16:19 )  

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