11/19/2012, 00.00
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Obama and Clinton in Southeast Asia, to balance Beijing's power in the region

by Weena Kowitwanij
Yesterday the U.S. president met the leaders of the Thai monarchy and the Prime Minister Shinawatra. Economy, education, bilateral cooperation and development are the issues at the center of the talks. Today the historic visit of the U.S. head of State in Myanmar, where he will meet Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi. Followed by the Asean summit in Cambodia.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - U.S. President Barack Obama landed this morning at the international airport in Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar, for a historic lightning visit to the Asian country two weeks after his re-election to a second term. The program includes a several hour visit, during which Obama - accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -met with his Burmese counterpart Thein Sein (the promoter of reforms being pressed on the country) and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (in photo). In the afternoon, the U.S. president gave a speech at the university before departing for Phnom Penh, where he will attend the Asean summit scheduled in the Cambodian capital. Over the weekend Obama and Clinton started the Asian tour in Thailand, Washington's historical ally in the region. The United States' diplomatic mission aims to redress the balance of power in Southeast Asia, where China is gaining increasing influence because of its economic and commercial strength.

In bilateral talks between Obama and Shinawatra, held yesterday at the headquarters of the Thai leader of the executive branch, there was talk of education, business, commerce. Among the various issues dealt with was the introduction of a full Fulbright educational program - that allows a student to study abroad - and the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, the U.S. government volunteer program. The U.S. president turned his gaze towards the 2013 Asean summit, dedicated to the prevention of natural disasters, which Bangkok will host in partnership with South Korea.

The growth objectives include promoting bilateral trade and investment, sustainable development and greater economic opportunities for women through the implementation of the U.S.-Asean five-year development plan; Asean is an association that brings together 10 Southeast Asian countries. The Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation, with particular attention to energy and food sectors. "The relations between the two countries", he added "will be better in the future", even if the agreements on commerce and free trade have yet to be concluded.

President Obama also met with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, from whom he received a gift of three books about the country and the initiatives promoted by the monarchy in favor of the population. Among the gifts was also a precious silk dress for his wife Michelle. In turn, the U.S. Head of State gave the king a painting of the American flag and an album containing photos and images of the Thai King during his various visits to America. Finally, the U.S. delegation visited the Buddhist temple of Wat Pho, listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Inside there are over a thousand images of the enlightened one and the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world. 



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