November 27, 1996 in Nation/World

President’s Swing Through Pacific Called A Hit Trade And Personal Ties Strenghthened, Burma Singled Out For Repression, Drugs

Los Angeles Times

Capping a 12-day tour through Asia and the Pacific, President Clinton on Tuesday stressed U.S. commitment to the region while pledging not to impose a vision of government on any other country.

At the same time, however, he singled out Myanmar (formerly called Burma) for a special rebuke, calling it a nation that has failed to move toward democracy and has tolerated a major narcotics trade.

Clinton’s comments came at the end of a postelection journey through Australia, the Philippines and Thailand during which he met with Asian leaders, won an agreement for a top-level summit with China, helped push through a far-reaching trade proposal cutting tariffs on information technology and reinforced U.S. ties to Pacific Rim governments.

Throughout the trip, the president suggested that the region has become at least as important to U.S. long-term interests as Europe, a significant shift from Washington’s traditional focus across the Atlantic.

“Three years ago I took my first trip overseas as president, to Japan and Korea,” Clinton told an audience at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “Now, shortly after my re-election, again my first trip is to Asia, to Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.”

Clinton digressed briefly from his observations about U.S. commitment to the Pacific to single out Thailand’s neighbor, Myanmar.”The role of drugs in Burma’s economic and political life and the regime’s refusal to honor its own pledge to move to multiparty democracy are really two sides of the same coin, for both represent the absence of the rule of law,” Clinton said.

As the Clinton administration sees it, the president’s Asia swing represents a move forward from the more halting, uncertain efforts in foreign policy during the president’s first years in office.

White House aides are calling the trip a success, given the smooth talks with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and South Korean President Kim Young Sam and the deal to liberalize trade in information technology - much sought by the United States - that was achieved during a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders in Manila.

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