Washington: As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins her busy schedule on Thursday, after an overnight stay in Naypuidaw hotel meeting the top leadership of the country in this remote Capital, officials here said her
meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein could probably last a few hours.
The reason for such an unusual meeting, scheduled in advance, was not given by the US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, but said, more than half a dozen Myanmar Cabinet ministers were expected to join this session.
"We expect this to be a very thorough review of not only the steps that they have taken, what we expect to see in the future, but the things that the US is prepared to do in response not only to these preliminary steps, but what might
be possible if the process of reform and openness continues," the official said requesting anonymity.
Giving a sense of the historic trip, a senior State Department official said Clinton's overarching message will be two-fold.
"One, that some initial steps have been taken; we welcome those steps. Frankly, we have been surprised by some of those steps, but that this is simply a first step and that several other things will need to take root and happen for the US to be able to work closely to support this overall effort," the official said.
"She comes with some specific ideas and suggestions for how we can support the process. She will have specific ideas that she will roll out in each of her meetings, both with the government, with the parliamentarians, with Aung San Suu Kyi, also with the ethnic groups, and also with civil society," he added.
"Our overall desire is to be in listening mode, to do a fact-finding, as President Obama has indicated, and also to test the seriousness, particularly of the government, in terms of what it wants to accomplish in the period ahead," the official said.
Clinton's day will officially begin with a meeting with the foreign minister, during which besides domestic issues, officials said, the Secretary of State would raise the issue of relationship between North Korea and Myanmar.
"We have been very clear what our expectations are. And the Burmese have talked to us seriously about potential steps associated with the IAEA and other actions they are contemplating with respect to North Korea," he said.
After the meeting with the Foreign Minister, and the President, Clinton is scheduled to have two sessions in Parliament, one with the upper house, one with the lower house.
"This is a mixed group, some of whom are quite supportive of the engagement with the outside, with the US, some of whom have been reported and also have been quite clear in some of their public pronouncements to be skeptical about certain aspects of the reform effort that the president has undertaken," the official said.
Thereafter the visiting delegation would leave for Yangon.
Immediately after arriving there, the former Capital and the largest city of Burma, Clinton would drive down directly to the Shwedagon pagoda, the magnificent and secret temple of Myanmar.
"It is just a miraculous thing, hundreds of tons of gold in one of the poorest countries in the world, priceless diamonds and rubies, all basically unguarded. It's quite magnificent. The Secretary will make an offering there," the
Thereafter, in their first meeting, Clinton will have a private dinner with Nobel laurate Aung San Suu Kyi.
"I think she is just very much looking forward to sitting down and having an opportunity to listen and talk about developments that are underway. President Obama spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi about two weeks ago on his flight from Australia
"She was very encouraging of his trip, very supportive of efforts the US has taken, thought that we had handled things exactly right, and has made some suggestions of some steps that she believes that we should take in order to support the reform effort, but also has suggested certain things that she
thinks are still premature, which we agree with," he said.
Clinton would drive down to the lake side home of Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday for a formal meeting.
"She will be shown around her home, which for many years was her prison and now is an area where she works. We will have a chance for a bilateral meeting with the members of her party, the National League of Democracy, the NLD," he said.
Clinton is expected to address the press at this point of time.
After that Clinton will visit the art gallery that has dedicated its work to artistic creations from ethnic areas from around the country.
Here she will be meeting with a number of representatives from ethnic groups, all the major ethnic groups.
"She will underscore our commitment not only to working closely with the government, with Aung San Suu Kyi, but a desire to have a dialogue with the ethnic minorities, with a deep recognition that it's those issues that are at the core, at the very heart of the difficulties that Myanmar has faced
for over 50 years," the official said.