When Air Force One touched down at Yangon's Mingaladon Airport on Nov. 19, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar. Though the visit only lasted six hours and was bookended by longer stops in Thailand and Cambodia, it was critical not only for maintaining Myanmar's momentum toward reform but also for solidifying its place in the U.S. regional strategy in Asia.
Despite the symbolism, the Obama administration insisted that the president's visit was not intended as a premature “victory lap” to celebrate Myanmar's reforms, as critics claimed it risked being perceived, but only to sustain a reform process that still has a long way to go. Though significant challenges remain, Danny Russel, Obama's top Asia adviser said the president was determined “not to miss the moment” to influence Myanmar's leaders to keep moving along the path of reform. ...
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