U.S. editorial excerpts -3-.
Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:
AN OPENING IN BURMA (The Wall Street Journal, New York)
President Obama chose his words well last week when he spoke of the ''flickers of progress'' the regime in Burma has recently made after ''years of darkness.'' Those flickers are enough to justify Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit next month to the country -- the first by a high-ranking U.S. official in half a century. But further U.S. engagement will have to depend on more than flickers.
In recent months, Burma watchers have been encouraged as the ruling junta has eased press restrictions, legalized labor unions and released some political prisoners. Elections a year ago saw the country's military rulers shed their uniforms in favor of civilian clothes. More significantly, on Friday opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi agreed to reregister her political party and compete in elections. That is a show of trust for a regime she has spent a lifetime fighting -- and one that has deceived, betrayed and imprisoned her before.
The regime's deeds will need the closest scrutiny. It is also worth wondering why it has apparently decided on its policy u-turn. In an interview last week, Burmese Culture Minister U Kway Hsan told the Journal that the regime had been badly hurt by international sanctions. The junta is willing to pay the price in political reform in order to regain access to trade and capital.
Sanctions remain Washington's principal lever to hold the regime to account. Though the regime has so far released more than 300 political prisoners, at least 1,600 remain behind bars. And though the regime denies mistreating ethnic minorities in the country's north, U.N. agencies and human-rights organizations continue to claim otherwise.
This suggests the U.S. needs a ''trust but verify'' approach to Burma. Fact-finding missions can be sent to Burma to ascertain how many political prisoners have been released (and whether those who are released are not being harassed or rearrested), the pace at which authoritarian laws are repealed, the transparency of elections and so on. The repeal of sanctions should be the end-point of engagement, not the starting point. This is a regime that has made too many phony reform promises in the past to be let off easily now.