The Two-Way
1:27 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Photo Of Clinton, Suu Kyi, Says It All

Sometimes a picture does indeed tell the story.

In this case, a photo taken today when Hillary Rodham Clinton had a private dinner in Myanmar with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi speaks volumes about the purpose and meaning of the first visit to the country by an American secretary of state in more than five decades.

The U.S., Clinton says, wants to encourage Myanmar's "beginning steps" toward reforms that lead to respect for human rights and democracy.

And there is no bigger symbol of the struggle for human rights in Myanmar than Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest. Now, she's been encouraged enough by a new government's reforms to run for office and to tell U.S. officials that it was time for someone such as Clinton to come and try to push the reform process further along.

Today, the women met for the first time.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Clinton. She'll have more about the secretary's visit on All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the audio of her report to the top of this post.

Update at 4:37 p.m. ET. Talks Were 'Substantive, Candid And Long'

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the talks with Myanmar's President Thein Sein were "substantive, candid and long." Clinton said Thein said he was committed to "reform, reconciliation and economic development for his country."

Clinton is "holding out prospect for upgrading diplomatic relations" between the two countries, reported Michele.

But Clinton was also cautious. She said Suu Kyi's presidential campaign is "encouraging, but not sufficient." She said in order for there to be deeper reform all political parties must be allowed to open offices across the country.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour in Myanmar with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's there to encourage the ruling military junta to make good on its recent promises of reform. Today, Secretary Clinton flew to the old capital, Yangon, to visit with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. As NPR's Michele Keleman reports, Secretary Clinton offered Myanmar's government some incentives today, in an effort to keep it on the path toward democracy.

MICHELE KELEMAN, BYLINE: Soon after arriving in Yangon, Secretary Clinton held a private dinner with Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman she has admired for years but never met until this trip. The U.S. has been closely coordinating its policy toward Myanmar with Suu Kyi, who recently announced she'd be running for elections. Clinton sees that as a vote of confidence in the changes taking place in the country.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: It is also encouraging that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to take part in the political process. But that, too, will not be sufficient unless all political parties can open offices throughout the country and compete in free, fair and credible elections.

KELEMAN: Earlier in the day at a palace in Myanmar's massive and surreal new capital, Naypyidaw, Clinton seemed pleased by the reception she received from President Thein Sein and top government officials.

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you for the excellent meeting and the preparations.

KELEMAN: Thein Sein didn't speak to foreign reporters, who are a rarity here, though he and his wife waved and smiled as the motorcade left, heading out a 20-lane highway in a practically empty city. Clinton described the meetings as substantive, candid and long.

CLINTON: He laid out a comprehensive vision of reform, reconciliation and economic development for his country, including specifics.

KELEMAN: She says he wants to bring an end to the ethnic conflicts that have ravaged this country, and made assurances that he would comply with U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The U.S. has been worried about the possibility of nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar. Clinton says she wants to show support for Thein Sein because he faces some hardliners in his government who don't like his reforms. The secretary is holding out the prospect for upgrading diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors, and she says the U.S. will take some small steps now, letting international development agencies come here and assess the country's needs.

CLINTON: For decades, the choices of this country's leaders kept it apart from the global economy and the community of nations. Today, the United States is prepared to respond to reforms with measured steps to lessen the isolation, and to help improve the lives of its citizens.

KELEMAN: After a full day of meetings in Naypyidaw, the secretary headed to Yangon to take in some of the ancient history of the country. She made traditional offerings at the city's iconic religious site, the Shwedagon Pagoda, pouring water over a small Buddha statue 11 times.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can make a wish (unintelligible).

CLINTON: I can make 11 wishes?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

KELEMAN: The guides also made sure she stopped at a massive bell, and handed her an ornate, red and gold stick.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Strike hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL CHIMING)

KELEMAN: Onlookers clamored for pictures as she walked around the pagoda, asking the guides questions about the intricate teak woodwork, the gold spires and statues.

CLINTON: Look at that dragon. My goodness. Does anyone else want to strike the bell?

KELEMAN: Michele Keleman, NPR News, Yangon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.