SINGAPORE – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to travel to Asia again in July to meet foreign ministers at the ASEAN Regional Forum, and to visit India. On her first Asian trip in February, she provided a welcome contrast to the past with her openness to others’ views, her willingness to cooperate, and her star power. She made Asians look at America anew.
But this trip will be trickier. One challenge is that part of the plot for the US and Clinton is being written by others. North Korea will be on the agenda after its missile tests, as will Myanmar, since its generals persist in prosecuting Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s most famous political detainee, on trivial charges.
After all that has happened in recent weeks, the definition of “success” must be set low. Nothing positive will come from the US condemning these two difficult regimes unilaterally. So a key goal of Clinton’s visit must be to pull together with the Asian leaders present at the ASEAN Regional Forum.
As for Myanmar, its neighbors and fellow ASEAN members – Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand – are also concerned about Suu Kyi’s continued prosecution. The US should begin to work with these countries not only on this matter, but also on the elections that Myanmar military junta has promised for 2010. Together, they should press for assurances of a free and fair process, with the aim of avoiding the kind of mess that followed the Iranian elections.