17 December 2014
US-Myanmar bilateral relations are being influenced by upcoming major elections in the two countries. Short-term gains by either side risk undermining rapprochement and the US’ role in Myanmar.
After being frosty for two decades, United States-Myanmar bilateral relations have warmed significantly since 2011. President Obama has been instrumental in modifying US policy on Myanmar, balancing sanctions with engagement. He recognised the need for the US to work with the military, shifting American focus from the long-held goal of regime change to the more pragmatic approach of regime modification. The new approach has positioned the US to work more productively with regional organisations in encouraging reforms in Myanmar.
Obama would not have succeeded in mending bilateral ties without parallel moves by Myanmar’s President Thein Sein. Alongside pushing a reform agenda, the nominally civilian government also worked to restore Myanmar’s place on the international stage and revitalise ties with the West. The rapprochement had numerous breakthroughs since 2011: Hillary Clinton became the first Secretary of State to visit Myanmar since 1955; an American ambassador was posted after a 22-year absence; and Obama’s 2012 visit was the first by a serving American president.
…Kyaw San Wai is a senior analyst and Christabelle He is a research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 22/12/2014