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Page last updated at 05:57 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 06:57 UK

US piles pressure on Burma regime

The flags of nations attending the Asean conference
Asean leaders are meeting for their regional conference in Thailand

US officials have had a rare meeting with representatives of Burma's regime.

Unnamed officials told reporters that efforts to improve ties depended partly on the outcome of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's trial.

The US also pressed Burma to enforce a United Nations resolution imposing an arms embargo on North Korea.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been on the diplomatic offensive ahead of a regional meeting now under way in Thailand.

Earlier in her trip to Thailand, she issued warnings about how a nuclear North Korea was unacceptable to the United States, and expressed concerns about the possible transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Burma.

The wrong road

Mrs Clinton called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi from many years of detention.

"If she were released, that would open up opportunities... for my country to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma," Mrs Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton arrives in Phuket (22.7.09)
Hillary Clinton said North Korea faced continued international isolation

This point was reinforced in the face-to-face meeting between US and Burmese officials on Wednesday night, US officials said.

They said they had told Burma that "the outcome of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi would affect our willingness and ability to take positive steps in our bilateral relationship".

Mrs Clinton was not present at the meeting with Burmese officials, and said she did not intend to appear at a possible meeting with North Korean officials either.

She told reporters that the US is convinced that Burma is taking the wrong road by associating with North Korea.

Mrs Clinton also told reporters that North Korea must completely and irreversibly end its nuclear weapons program or face further isolation and "the unrelenting pressure" of international sanctions.

She said there were more positive ways ahead if the North chooses, and she is expected to announce conditions in which the North will be welcomed back into international discussions later on Thursday.

Symbols matter

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton signed a symbolically important treaty with members of Asean.

The Treaty of Amity and Co-operation binds the US more closely into the regional security architecture - something previous US administrations had fought shy of.

"I want to send a very clear message that the United States is back, that we are fully engaged and committed to our relationships in South East Asia," she said before the signing the treaty in the resort of Phuket.

Mrs Clinton's predecessor Condoleezza Rice skipped two Asean forums, leading analysts to remark on how China was gaining friends and influencing people in the perceived US absence.

Mrs Clinton also said the Obama administration would soon appoint a permanent ambassador to Asean headquarters in Jakarta.

Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.



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