- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PHUKET, Thailand — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday said Myanmar would get American investment if it frees democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

If the country’s ruling military junta fails to release the longtime political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, however, Mrs. Clinton said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should consider expelling Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“If she were released, that would open up opportunities at least for my country to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma,” the secretary told reporters at ASEAN’s annual meeting in the Thai resort city of Phuket.

“We have been very clear in stating that the United States would like to see changes in the behavior of the regime in Burma,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton’s remarks came a day after she offered North Korea, another U.S. adversary, a package of old and new incentives if it returns to nuclear talks and agrees to abandon its nuclear programs “irreversibly.”

Ms. Suu Kyi was put on trial a few weeks ago after an American man swam to her lakeside house, where she had been confined for years. The Obama administration has denounced the charges as baseless.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was refused access to Ms. Suu Kyi during a visit to Myanmar last week.

The United States has slapped a series of sanctions on Myanmar, although it still has an embassy there. Those sanctions would have to be suspended for U.S. companies to invest and do business in the country.

Mrs. Clinton did not offer details in her remarks, and it appeared that Ms. Suu Kyi’s freedom would be too easy a condition for the junta to fulfill in order to receive U.S. benefits.

A senior official traveling with Mrs. Clinton later said the administration wants to see more actions, such as allowing Ms. Suu Kyi to participate in the country’s political life and freeing thousands of other political prisoners.

Earlier Wednesday, in a TV interview in Bangkok, Mrs. Clinton said that, if the junta continues to repress its people and abuse human rights, ASEAN should consider expelling it.

Although most ASEAN members agree that Myanmar’s behavior is unacceptable, they have been reluctant to adopt such a confrontational approach.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose country is also an ASEAN member, said he does not share Mrs. Clinton’s call.

“We are still in favor of discussing with Myanmar so that they will be serious in implementing the road map towards democratization,” Mr. Najib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

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