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When Burma Policy is Really China Policy « The Washington Independent

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made headlines in February when, during a spin through Asia, she revealed that the Obama administration is reviewing its Burma policy, in search of more effective ways to sway the tyrannical military regime.

“Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn’t influenced the Burmese junta,” she told students at Tokyo University.

Today, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) weighs in with a message for the White House: “Stay the course” on Burma policy, particularly as it pertains to support for Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel-Prize winning head of the National League for Democracy who’s been under house arrest on and off (mostly on) since 1990. From an op-ed in The Boston Globe today:

While it may be expedient for some diplomats and aid workers to marginalize the National League for Democracy, Clinton must recognize that no political reconciliation in Burma is possible without that party’s full participation along with ethnic representatives who remain imprisoned.

Further down, Gregg reveals what this issue, in his mind, is really about: Stemming the spread of Chinese influence in Southeast Asia.

Burma is more than just a human-rights problem. Illicit drugs, diseases, and refugees migrate to neighboring countries, creating major social — and financial — burdens on local and national governments. Geostrategic interests, including natural resources and access to deep water ports for a growing Chinese navy, should be of increasing concern to the region, as well as the United States and Europe. [...]

It is far from certain that engagement with the military junta will produce any significant reward (tigers don’t change their stripes), and the United States is not in a position to effectively counter China’s growing presence in Burma, whether through high-risk investments or security assistance. The best antidote to a growing Chinese footprint is transparent and accountable governance, long championed by the NLD and one of America’s best exports to the region.

Can’t wait for the next Cold War.

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