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Clinton harsh on Myanmar, but spare

Subject: Clinton harsh on Myanmar, but spares China (The Hindu, 29/11/96.)

Clinton harsh on Myanmar, but spares China
The Hindu, 29/11/96.
>From Sridhar Krishnaswami
After nearly two weeks of foreign policy in the Asia Pacific, the 
U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, comes home to the 
Thanksgiving holiday knowing well that when the weekend is 
over it will be back to pending business.  The three-nation Asia 
Pacific trip of the President that ended with a high-profile 
reception in Thailand did not contain any surprises on the 
foreign policy administration seen as waffling about its role in 
the region.  Washington says it is firmly engaged for the 
foreseeable future.
It is somewhat odd that Mr. Clinton sought to attack Myanmar 
for its track record on human rights and democracy as well as 
over narcotics during his visit to Thailand.  While this would 
undoubtedly be welcomed in human rights quarters, many 
would be puzzled that the American President who had such 
harsh words for the junta in Yangon had very little to say to the 
Chinese President, Mr. Jiang Zemin, when they met in Manila a 
few days earlier.  Mr. Clinton's observations about the absence 
of the rule of law in Myanmar is once again a grim reminder of 
the patent double standards in the pursuit of national interests.
The foreign policy line is quite simple: protection of American 
economic interests in a part of the world bristling with 
economic activity.  If Mr. Clinton had the luxury of lashing out 
at the junta in Yangon, that is because America-based 
multinational corporations have either exhausted their options in 
this small South East Asian. country or come to the conclusion 
that Myanmar is too small a pick compared to China.
As for Myanmar and Vietnam, the- U.S. administration should 
have taken a leaf out of the strategic vision notebook of South 
East Asia.  Although the capitals of South East Asia would not 
say so, their intent to accommodate Vietnam and Myanmar has 
to do with China; in other words, their fear of pushing 
Myanmar further into the hands of the Chinese.
The so-called American logic of using trade and economic 
contacts to promote an easing of the political environment stops 
with China and for some 'unexplained' reason the same 
yardstick cannot be used with Yangon where economic 
sanctions are seen as the only option.  Countries like japan have 
long been wary of Yangon's special ties with Beijing, and aside 
from the apprehension of Myanmar being turned into an 
extended Chinese lake they are worried about the future of 
shipping lanes in and around the Coco Islands in the Andamans.
Mr. Clinton's Asia Pacific trip has been primarily seen in the 
context of Ins fourth meeting with the President of China, the 
things that have been said in public and what may have 
transpired in the meetings of the President and other senior 
officials of the administration with their counterparts from 
In the midst of all the economic dynamism of South East Asia, 
the fact remains that critical political changes are taking place.  
While these changes do not have to add up to Western notions 
of democracy and human rights, it is obvious that political 
movements in that part of the world point to major changes in 
the way politics could be defined and conducted in the years to 
come.  Indonesia is one of those countries which has kept the 
region and the world guessing as to whether it will be settling 
for one more five year term for its President Mr. Suharto and 
the extent to which the Government in Jakarta would permit an 
expanded civilian role in the political system.  As a critical 
player economically and strategically, political uncertainty in 
Indonesia does not augur well for South-East Asia or for 
American interests in the Asia Pacific.