Photograph by Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi met for the second time in two days on Friday, displaying what the traveling press corps declared an "obvious closeness" as the two pledged to work together to promote democratic reforms in the isolated Southeast Asian nation.
"If we go forward together I’m confident there will be no turning back from the road to democracy," Suu Kyi told reporters after the pair's formal meeting. "We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with our friends."
Clinton also announced $1.2 million in new aid for the nation, mostly to civil groups that provide health care and microlending. But the big takeaway for many of the U.S. reporters who had followed Clinton on her historic trip was the budding friendship between two of the most recognizeable female political figures in the world.
The Associated Press with the scene on the ground:
Wrapping up a historic three-day visit to Myanmar [Burma], the first by a secretary of state to the Southeast Asian nation in more than 50 years, Clinton and Suu Kyi held hands on the porch of the lakeside home where the Nobel peace laureate spent much of the past two decades under house arrest. Clinton thanked her for her "steadfast and very clear leadership."
And the Washington Post:
The pair had met for a private dinner the night before, and on Friday, they demonstrated an obvious closeness through their statements and body language—greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek, holding hands at one point in the news conference and hesitating awkwardly at the end before bursting into laughter as they hugged each other goodbye.
Thursday, Dec. 1: Hillary Clinton met with Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time on Thursday during a historic visit to the reclusive nation of Burma.
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. secretary of state and the most recognizable face of Burma’s pro-democracy movement had a private dinner at the home of the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Burma, one day before the two women are slated to have a formal get together at Suu Kyi’s private residence. Clinton and Suu Kyi had previously spoken on the phone but never met in person.
Suu Kyi’s party won a national election in 1990 but the military rulers refused to cede power, infamously placing Su Kyi under house arrest and keeping her there for most of the next two decades. She was awarded the Nobel prize in 1991.
Wednesday, Nov. 30: Hillary Clinton touched down in Burma on Wednesday, marking the first visit to the reclusive, authoritarian nation by a U.S. secretary of state in more than half a century.
"I will obviously be looking to determine for myself what the intention is of the current government with respect to continued reforms," Clinton said in South Korea before taking off for Naypyidaw, the new capital of Burma, also known as Myanmar.
"We and many other nations are very hopeful that these 'flickers of progress' as President Obama called them in Bali will be ignited into a movement for change that will benefit the people of the country," she added.
The two major goals that U.S. officials say they are looking for out of a renewed diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asian nation is the release of all political prisoners and end to the violence between government troops and ethnic minorities.
The Washington Post with the scene upon Clinton's arrival:
Clinton’s plane was met by a raft of Burmese officials, eager to engage with the U.S. and demonstrate their sincerity for progress after decades of economic sanctions, isolation and international criticism over their brutal crackdown on democratic activists, violence against ethnic minorities and human rights abuses.
Friday, Nov. 18: Hillary Clinton will head to Burma for two days early next month, becoming the first U.S. secretary of state to make the trip in more than half a century.
The Washington Post reports the move is an effort to strengthen U.S. relations with the Southeast Asian nation, which has struggled with brutal military rule and political oppression but that has recently hinted that it is may provide an "opening to the West as a hedge in its relationship with China."
The trip is part of a broader diplomatic mission to the region and comes after "flickers of progress" in Burma since new civilian leadership took control of the country in March, President Obama said Friday in a statement announcing the trip. Still, he cautioned that the country risks continued economic and political sanctions if it slides backward.
Burma – also known as Myanmar – has faced international sanctions ever since its harsh crackdowns on pro-Democracy protesters in the late 1980s that have continued in some form to the present day. In 1990, military rulers refused to cede power after a national election won by pro-Democracy party leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then famously put under house arrest for 15 years. Suu Kyi is now working with the civilian government to ensure that reforms are enacted, according to the Associated Press.
"We’re not ending sanctions. We’re not making any abrupt changes," Clinton said during an interview with Fox News. "We have to do some more fact-finding and that’s part of my trip."