* Suu Kyi to be feted in Washington, tour U.S. heartland
* 1991 Nobel laureate is key barometer of Myanmar reform
* Myanmar will keep close ties with China - Suu Kyi
* U.S. sanctions helped push rulers, but should be eased
By Paul Eckert
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 Myanmar opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi warned on Tuesday that reforms in her country
had cleared only the "first hurdle" and said she supported an
easing of U.S. sanctions as part of a broad partnership with
The Nobel laureate said the economic sanctions were a useful
tool for putting pressure on Myanmar's military government in
the past, but now the people need to consolidate democracy
without outside help.
"I do support the easing of sanctions, because I think that
our people can start taking responsibility for their own
destiny," she said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington
on the opening day of a two-week tour of the United States.
"I do not think we should depend on U.S. sanctions to keep
up the momentum of our movement to democracy. We have to work at
it ourselves and there are very many other ways in which the
United States can help us," said Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi did not specify which of the complex web of
sanctions that Washington began phasing out this year she wanted
removed. State Department officials did not indicate that she
had made any formal requests on sanctions during talks on
Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"We are going to do this in a measured way as we see
progress, and the secretary did lay out the list (of what more
needs to be done)," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
told reporters after the meeting.
"We will continue to watch that and make our decisions as we
see more progress," she added.
GUARD AGAINST BACKSLIDING
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing
democracy in opposition to a military junta that held her under
house arrest for years, began her tour with talks with Clinton
and a speech hosted by the USIP and the Asia Society.
"We have crossed the first hurdle but there are many more
hurdles to cross," she said in the speech, her first public
appearance in the United States.
Clinton told the same event Myanmar still "had a lot of work
"Political prisoners remain in detention. Ongoing ethnic and
sectarian violence continues to undermine progress toward
national reconciliation, stability and lasting peace," she said.
Suu Kyi's followers and the quasi-civilian government needed
to work together to heal past wounds and "guard against
backsliding because there are forces that would take the country
in the wrong direction if given the chance," said Clinton.
She later visited the office of Radio Free Asia, a
U.S.-funded broadcaster, and addressed the conflict between
ethnic Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas that in June erupted in
violence that killed 80 people and displaced thousands.
"Hate and fear are very closely related," Suu Kyi told RFA's
Burmese language service in an interview.
" You have to remove the roots of hatred - that is to say you
have to address these issues that make people insecure and that
make people threatened," RFA quoted her as saying.
Suu Kyi, whose last stay in the United States was in the
1970s as a United Nations employee, will visit the large emigre
community from her country in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and make a
series of public speeches from New York to California.
Her U.S. tour will coincide with a visit by Thein Sein,
Myanmar's reformist president, who heads to New York on Sept. 24
to address the U.N. General Assembly.
GEOPOLITICS AND MYANMAR
Thein Sein, a former junta general, was scheduled to meet
U.S. officials on the sidelines of U.N. meetings and his aides
said he would try to convey Myanmar's urgent need for the import
ban and other American sanctions to be eased.
Suu Kyi's election to parliament in April helped to
transform Myanmar's pariah image and convince the West to begin
rolling back sanctions after a year of dramatic reforms,
including the release of about 700 political prisoners in
amnesties between May 2011 and July.
The 67-year-old Suu Kyi, striking a professorial tone in her
first U.S. speech, said the rapid normalization of U.S.-Myanmar
ties over the past 18 months was "particularly illustrative of
the dimensions of geopolitics and history."
Many people around the region are asking, she said, whether
U.S. engagement with Myanmar - a country of 64 million people
that lies between China and India - "was aimed at containing the
influence of China in Asia."
She said Myanmar's engagement with the United States did not
mean that Myanmar-U.S. ties "in any way can be seen as a
hostile threat to China" and that she sought good ties with both
countries as well as with India.
BIG TEST IN 2015
Before Suu Kyi arrived in the United States on Monday,
Myanmar announced a pardon of more than 500 prisoners in an
amnesty that included at least 80 political detainees, according
The announcement, seen as a step that could strengthen the
former military state's growing bonds with Washington, did not
make clear if any of the 514 were political prisoners, but two
activist groups who monitor dissidents jailed in Myanmar said
more than 80 were given presidential pardons.
The U.S. State Department reacted cautiously to news of the
amnesty, repeating its call for the immediate and unconditional
release of all political prisoners.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch,
said he wanted to hear more from Suu Kyi about a looming
showdown in the next election in 2015, which will determine
whether the generals who have run the country since 1962 will
peacefully hand over power to civilians.
"You can be a politician or you can be a human rights
activist who speaks frankly, but I don't think you can be both,"
"The full and frank assessment of human rights groups is
that she's not prepared to play a very critical role with the
government, nor does she speak the underlying truth about the
political situation - the huge test that's coming up in 2015,"