The United States has acknowledged Myanmar's democratic reforms by easing a ban on investments in the country. President Barack Obama has also named the first US ambassador to the country in 22 years.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Myanmar's foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, in Washington on Thursday and welcomed political reforms introduced in the nation, which is also known as Burma, over the last year.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Clinton confirmed that the government would suspend sanctions barring US investment in Myanmar for one year. She said the US would retain the "relevant laws on the books as an insurance policy" and that Washington would retain its arms embargo.
"Today we say to American businesses, 'invest in Burma' and do it responsibly," she told a joint press conference after talks with Maung Lwin.
In further recognition of democratic progress, the US also named the current special envoy to Myanmar Derek Mitchell as its first ambassador to the country in 22 years. The move must still be confirmed by the US Senate.
Myanmar will also send an ambassador to the United States.
After decades of military rule, the new civilian-led government has embarked on a series of political and economic reforms that have been applauded by many in the international community. The European Union put a one-year suspension on its economic sanctions against Myanmar last month. It also retained an arms embargo.
Human rights groups, however, have been critical of rewarding Myanmar prematurely and have expressed concern about the well-being of ethnic minorities, especially the Kachin, who live in the country's north. A military offensive against Kachin separatists there has caused tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The suspension of the US sanctions "ignores the reality of the situation on the ground, including ongoing atrocities," Tom Andrews of the group United to End Genocide told the Associated Press. "This is a dangerous decision that is likely to further exacerbate human rights abuses and has left the US government without any leverage in future."
ncy, ccp/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)