China gained ground in Burma because of US sanctions: Berman
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Last Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 22:19
Washington: It is the vacuum created by US economic sanctions and its policy of isolation that helped China in gaining ground in Burma, a leading American Congressman said on Wednesday.

"It is also clear that our policy of isolation over the past two decades has resulted in China's growing political and commercial influence in Burma, and little progress in supporting those calling for reform," Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman, powerful House Committee on International Affairs said.

Chairing a Congressional hearing on Burma, he agreed with the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that engagement and sanctions must be applied together for reforms to take place in Burma.

"Historically, China's relationship with Burma has been precarious, but in our absence it has been strengthened," he noted.

While China has sought international recognition as a rising global power, Beijing has become the strongest defender of Burma's repressive policies in the United Nations and other international fora, risking its reputation as a responsible global partner, Berman argued.

Noting that any changes in Burma will have a direct impact on China and other neighbouring countries, he said Burmese border regions have long been a bastion of drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other criminal activity – none of which can be contained by political boundaries.

"Thailand and China have also seen a spike in the flow of refugees as thousands of Burmese have fled across the border to escape the intensified violence and egregious human rights violations against women, children, and ethnic minorities," he said.

Berman said there are troubling questions about military ties between Burma and North Korea, which Clinton has spoken about publicly, as well as nuclear weapons proliferation concerns stemming from that relationship.

Burma has also been sending hundreds of officials to Russia for nuclear technology training, and is reportedly engaged in discussions to purchase a nuclear reactor from Russia.

As Obama heads towards Singapore to attend the APEC conference as well as the US-ASEAN Summit, Berman said this will be a unique opportunity for the President to put into practice US's new strategy of engagement and multilateral cooperation with its partners in the region on the Burma issue.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 22:19

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