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US President Barack Obama with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after addressing members of the media at her residence in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press
Newly re-elected US President Barack Obama met Myanmar president and the opposition leader during his landmark visit to the country on Monday. Analysts said the six-hour visit was evidence that the United States' "pivot to Asia" has moved to a deeper level.
Obama arrived in Yangon on Monday morning as part of his four-day Southeast Asian tour, which made him the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar in the history of bilateral relations.
"His visits to Myanmar and Cambodia are his first to both countries. This sends an important message that his Asia policy will further deepen and go into a comprehensive, deeply cultivated stage," said Yuan Peng, an expert on US studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
Obama said his discussion with Myanmar President U Thein Sein was positive. The US president acknowledged the reforms that had occurred in the Asian nation and said his visit will benefit the development of bilateral relations.
U Thein Sein stressed cooperation in the development of democracy, human rights and capacity building. He thanked all stakeholders for their efforts, including Obama, who showed far-sightedness in bringing about improved relations between the two countries, which had experienced difficulties for more than two decades.
He emphasized cooperation for maintaining improved relations based on mutual respect, sympathy and understanding.
Obama also met Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy and parliamentarian. He said the US supports Myanmar's efforts to establish the rule of law, end ethnic conflicts and ensure that the people of Myanmar have access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities.
The US finally eased the decade-old import restrictions on Myanmar goods on Nov 16. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Sept 26 that Washington would begin the process of easing the import ban, which was put in place in 2003. She also traveled to Myanmar in December, making her the first US secretary of state to visit the country in 56 years.
Obama's visits to Myanmar and two other Southeast Asian nations, Thailand and Cambodia, right after his re-election demonstrate that Asia still weighs heavily on the US president's foreign diplomacy agenda, according to Jiang Zhida, a researcher on Southeast Asian studies at China Institute of International Studies.
China and the US share common interests in and benefit from maintaining the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
China has its economic advantages in the region, while the US maintains its advantages in military strength. This situation will not change in the short term, Yuan said.
China hopes the visit by Obama will benefit peace, stability and development in the region, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday, while noting that the visit is a matter for the US and Myanmar.
She said China and Myanmar are good neighbors and are pushing forward the strategic partnership that will not only benefit the two peoples but also contribute to regional peace and stability.
"We have full confidence in further strengthening our relationship," she told a news conference.
Xinhua contributed to this story.
(China Daily 11/20/2012 page11)