YANGON // A United States official arrived in army-ruled Myanmar today for talks with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently freed from house arrest, plus a minister and newly elected lawmakers, a government official said.
The visit by Joseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, is seen as a move by Washington to test the political waters in Myanmar, a month after a controversial general election and Ms Suu Kyi's release from years of detention.
Efforts by Barack Obama's administration to improve ties with the regime have been largely fruitless, and its calls for an inclusive election and the release of more than 2,100 political prisoners fell on deaf ears.
Two days after Ms Suu Kyi's release on November 13, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Washington was prepared to have "a different kind of relationship" with Myanmar, but only under certain conditions. He did not elaborate.
Analysts believe Washington might be reassessing its stance on sanctions against the regime, which critics say have failed and simply pushed the generals closer to China.
Ms Suu Kyi, who has led the fight for democracy in Myanmar, has hinted she might try to work with the West to review sanctions, which she previously backed, if she believes they are hurting the Burmese people.
Mr Yun was scheduled to visit foreign minister Nyan Win in the capital, Naypyitaw, a government official said. It was not known if Mr Yun would meet with the junta's reclusive leadership.
He next plans to travel to the biggest city, Yangon, to meet Suu Kyi, political party leaders and representatives of ethnic groups, the official said.
The most recent visitor from Washington was assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell in May, when he met with several ministers and Ms Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest.
"I think the main purpose of Yun's visit is to find out the opinions of different political forces including Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime before reviewing the Obama administration's policy on Myanmar," said a retired diplomat in Yangon.