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What Obama will accomplish with a visit to Myanmar

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Other Myanmar analysts go farther, warning that the accolades could encourage the country’s leaders to rest on their laurels and – having received the US president for a historic first visit and seen US sanctions removed – could slow or stop the reform process.

“There’s nothing yet that’s permanent about the reforms, and I do worry that maybe we’re moving a little too fast,” says Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. But, he also points out, Myanmar’s most prominent force for reform, the activist Aung San Suu Kyi, supports visits to her country by international leaders, including Obama.

“I really think we have to defer to Aung San Suu Kyi on whether or not it’s the right time for this visit,” Mr. Lohman says, adding that a list of American leaders of all political stripes have already visited the country to show their support. “If [Senate minority leader] Mitch McConnell can go to Burma, I guess Obama can, too.”

In Myanmar, Obama will sit down with the country’s reformist president, Thein Sein, and will also call on Ms. Suu Kyi, who lived for years under house arrest but is now a member of the country’s newly elected parliament. Both Obama and Suu Kyi are Nobel laureates.

Obama will be joined in his visit by Secretary Clinton.

But the president’s reasons for visiting Myanmar transcend the country’s borders. One of the hallmarks of Obama’s first-term foreign policy was his “pivot” to Asia. By visiting Myanmar, Obama will be underscoring how the American pivot should not be seen simply in defense and security terms, but as part of a US commitment to supporting and participating in Asia’s political and economic development.

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