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General Malaise

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
December 9, 2009
The New Republic


When it came to Burma, the United States has decided, for now, to deal with the generals, and possibly help the long-suffering Burmese population. As one senior State Department official recently told me, "We're moving forward to reach out to them no matter what they did in the past." The administration, he said, plans to initiate high-level meetings between junta officials and State Department power players like Campbell. State will also start thinking up ways to work with China, the junta's closest ally, to deliver more assistance to Burma. Already, the administration has allowed Burmese Foreign Minister Major General Nyan Win a rare visit to Washington. "These are the types of outreach we think [the junta] will respond to," the State Department official said.

To date, the Burmese have fed this optimism. This year, the junta allowed Stephen Blake, a senior American diplomat, to visit the country and meet with its foreign minister, the first time such a high-ranking State Department policymaker had gone to Burma in nearly a decade. Meanwhile, in August, Senator Jim Webb, who heads the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, visited the nation, scoring an unusual audience with the dour, dough-faced junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, who normally disdains meeting foreigners. The junta also allowed Webb to meet with Suu Kyi.

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