Secretary Clinton welcomed the release of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday, after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent most of the past two decades under house arrest. Clinton also urged Burmese leaders to start an "inclusive dialogue" with Aung San Suu Kyi as part of the process of creating a more thriving and democratic Burma. Importantly, she also called on the Burmese regime to "immediately and unconditionally" free all 2,100 political prisoners in the country. Below is Clinton's complete statement:
Today I join with billions of people around the world to welcome the long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi has endured enormous personal sacrifice in her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to Burma, including unjustified detention for most of the past twenty years. The Burmese regime has repeatedly rejected her offers to engage in dialogue and work together, trying instead to silence and isolate her. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi's commitment to the Burmese people has not wavered.
The United States calls on Burma's leaders to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi's release is unconditional so that she may travel, associate with her fellow citizens, express her views, and participate in political activities without restriction. They should also immediately and unconditionally release all of Burma's 2,100 political prisoners.
We urge Burma's leaders to break from their repressive policies and begin an inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders towards national reconciliation and a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.
In the photo above, Aung San Suu Kyi smiles at the gate of her home soon after her release from house arrest.
Activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) donned cow and chicken costumes yesterday to greet nearly vegetarian Bill Clinton when he was in Manila, Philippines, to give a speech titled, "Embracing Our Common Humanity." The brown cow held a sign urging people to "Be Like Bill: Grill Veggies, Not Meat," and the yellow chicken bore a sign declaring, "Chicks Love Slim Vegan Bill."
"Bill Clinton is promoting healthy living, and we commend him for leading by example," a PETA leader told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. (The former U.S. president lost 24 pounds for daughter Chelsea's July 31 wedding by adopting a plant-based diet.)
JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of Filipinos have fled to evacuation centers and at least 14 people have died due to Typhoon Megi, which hit the Philippines yesterday with winds exceeding 155 mph (250 kph). Today, it's dumping heavy rain on the country and is expected to reach southern China later this week. Secretary Clinton offered the following condolences today:
On behalf of the people of the United States, I offer our condolences for the damage and loss of life caused on the island of Luzon by Typhoon Megi. Our embassy in Manila has offered immediate disaster relief assistance, and we are working closely with Philippine authorities to offer additional assistance as needed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Luzon and all Filipinos affected by this tragedy.
Last November, Clinton visited the Philippines, where she toured a flood-stricken school and announced $5 million in aid to help recover from three massive storms that had hit the country in the previous six weeks.
In the Oct. 19 photo above, people survey typhoon damage in San Jose, Isabela, Philippines. In the Oct. 19 photo below -- too cute to pass up -- an evacuated baby eats handout rice at a converted basketball court in Manila.
Photos, top to bottom: Bradley Ambrose/Getty Images, NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton wishes all the people of Singapore a happy 45th National Day today. Below is the statement she released late last week. (Singapore, formerly a British trading colony, merged with the Malaysian Federation in 1963, but was voted out and became an independent country on Aug. 9, 1965.)
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Singapore on your 45th National Day this August 9. On this occasion, we honor the bonds of friendship between our two nations and reflect on all that Singapore has accomplished. As I reaffirmed on my recent visit to the region, the United States is committed to being an active partner in Southeast Asia. We value our close relationship with Singapore as a cornerstone of security and prosperity in the region and beyond, and we look forward to working together to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century. I wish all Singaporeans, whether you fly your country's flag at home or abroad, a joyful celebration.
In the photo above, taken day, a boy holds a Singaporean flag as he watches Air Force helicopters fly by during a celebration of National Day in Singapore.
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Over at FP's Shadow Government blog, Daniel Blumenthal writes that Secretary Clinton is practicing "what one might call a distinctly American realism." He states:
The realism is manifest in the return to balancing China's power in the region, something the president said he would avoid as anachronistic. The distinctly American approach is practicing balance of power politics without abandoning our principles. We want and need a better relationship with authoritarian Vietnam. But we need not ignore Hanoi's poor human rights record.
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
While in Hanoi today, Secretary Clinton received this portrait of her and daughter Chelsea, created by Vietnamese artist is Dao Trong Cuong. (I think this person might be the same one who created these portraits of world leaders.)
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
While in Vietnam today, Secretary Clinton engaged in health diplomacy by visiting the Ngoc Lam Pagoda orphanage for AIDS-affected children. After meeting with the kids, she signed a partnership agreement with Vietnamese Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong that provides a five-year plan of cooperation between Vietnam, the United States, and other stakeholders to effectively respond to HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. It also contributes funds to PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) for prevention, care, and treatment.
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
In recent days, Secretary Clinton has offered six New Year's greetings:
In Thailand, the recent political violence hasn't stopped people from celebrating the three-day Songkran new year holiday, which began yesterday and features soaking people with water as part of the festivities. In the photos above and below, Thais and tourists celebrate yesterday on Bangkok's Khaosan Road, a spot popular with backpackers, which as recently as Saturday night was the site of violence, with Thais and tourists seen examining bullet holes and blood on Sunday.
Photos: Luis Ascui/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is in the Philippines today, where she has expressed support for the country's efforts to fight Islamist militants and recover from three massive storms that struck in the last six weeks.
She visited a flood-stricken high school (seen in the photos above and below) in Marikina, east of Manila. There, she announced a $5 million in U.S. relief aid, in addition to the $14 million that has already been provided, to help with recovery from the devastating storms.
One sensitive issue Clinton addressed during her visit was the several hundred U.S. military personnel who are in the Philippines to advise and train Filipino troops on counterinsurgency (al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants are present in some parts of the country). Many leftist and nationalist Filipinos want the U.S. forces out.
At a news conference with Filipino Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Clinton said, "I would just reiterate that the United States stands ready to assist our friends in the Philippines who are seeking to counter terrorism and the threat of extremism. … And we will be willing to support them in any way that is appropriate that they request. But the relationship between our countries and between our militaries is very strong and cooperative, and we look forward to continuing that."
The Filipino foreign minister stressed that U.S. troops are not involved in combat in the Philippines and just "assist, advise, and train." He also pointed out that there is a humanitarian component to their presence, such as recent assistance with typhoon recovery. "They deployed military personnel, equipment, helicopters, boats, forklifts, and bulldozers to immediately assist our people," he said.
Still, with the Philippines' being a former colony of the United States, it's easy to understand why many Filipinos bristle at the U.S. troop presence.
Photos: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
While speaking today at a news conference in Singapore (where, as seen above, she's attending the APEC summit), Secretary Clinton urged Burma to plan for "free, fair, and credible" elections in 2010. She also pointed out that it's in other countries' interests to have a stable Burma, saying, "Any country that does business in Burma wants to be sure that their investments and their business are safe, and the best way to ensure that is to move toward democracy and the kind of stability that democracy creates."
At a news conference today, Clinton also said yesterday's naval skirmish between North and South Korea will not not affect U.S. plans to send an envoy to North Korea to try to restart nuclear talks. Clinton said, "This does not in any way affect the decision to send Ambassador [Stephen] Bosworth. We think that this is an important step that stands on its own."
A couple of other Clinton tidbits:
•Clinton has been urging Iran to accept a U.N. proposal that lets the country ship low-enriched uranium abroad (to Russia and France) to be further enriched for a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes. She also stated on The Charlie Rose Show that, "It is not in Iran's interest to have a nuclear arms race in the Gulf, where they would be less secure than they are today. It is not in Iran's interest, to the Iranian people's interest, to be subjected to very onerous sanctions."
•Clinton was a star guest at Starbucks today, though she didn't order anything to drink. She sat for about 30 minutes at a table outside the Starbucks in Singapore's Suntec convention center. She was joined by U.S. Congressman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) while four diplomatic security agents monitored from a distance. Three of the four ordered lattes and cappuccinos. The manager said, "They came by very quietly. … Suddenly, this branch has become historic, an icon. I feel lucky."
Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is on a new continent today -- Asia. She arrived in Singapore late today (yes, it's already late today in most of the world, while only early afternoon here in Washington) for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. (Above, she shakes hands with Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo in Thailand this July.)
On Thursday, she'll head to the Philippines, where apparently some people plan to protest her (well, not so much her personally, but the United States more broadly). They are angered by the "indefinite" presence of U.S. troops in their country, with one leader of a leftist political coalition there saying in a statement, "[T]he United States is determined to strengthen and expand its presence in the Philippines. [Clinton's] trip is definitely not a goodwill or solidarity visit for typhoon victims. She's here for U.S. security interests, more than anything else." Well, I'm sure Clinton will take it in stride.
On Friday, Clinton will be back in Singapore to join President Obama for more APEC summit. Then they'll be in China Nov. 15 to 18.
Photo: PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is in diplomat overdrive at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Yesterday, she announced a new way forward with Burma: engagement. Speaking to the U.N. Group of Friends on Burma, she said:
To help achieve democratic reform, we will be engaging directly with Burmese authorities. … We believe that sanctions remain important as part of our policy, but by themselves, they have not produced the results that had been hoped for on behalf of the people of Burma."
Clinton said that if Burma's military rulers started behaving better, it could lead to a lifting of sanctions:
We will be willing to discuss the easing of sanctions in response to significant actions on the part of Burma's generals that address the core human rights and democracy issues that are inhibiting Burma's progress."
I suppose if sanctions haven't worked all these years, then it's time to add something new. The plan -- which got a thumbs-up from pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- emerges from an almost-complete policy review started in January, so there must be something to it. (And by the way, Clinton has also suggested kicking Burma out of ASEAN if it doesn't release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.)
Photo: Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images
Above: Secretary Clinton poses with a Liberian newspaper as she meets with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Aug. 13 in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.
For a photo summary of Secretary Clinton's 11-day, seven-country visit to Africa, please check out FP's latest photo essay: "Hillary in Africa"
And check out the photo essay "The Obamans Abroad" for a summary of Clinton's July trip to Asia and Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Eastern Europe.
Below: Clinton shakes hands with the prime minister of Cape Verde, José Maria Neves, on Aug. 14.
Photos, top to bottom: GLENNA GORDON/AFP/Getty Images, STR/AFP/Getty Images
A roundup of Hillary Clinton news:
•It's official now: Secretary Clinton will be visiting seven African countries starting next week. She'll commence her trip in Kenya -- the birthplace of President Obama's father -- on Aug. 5 and continue on to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. She'll also be meeting with the president of Somalia's transitional government while in Kenya.
•Clinton, above, continues today with the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington. Check out the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote about the talks.
•A Wall Street Journal editorial accuses Clinton of "pandering to dictators" for saying last week that if Burma releases Aung San Suu Kyi, it could open many opportunities, such as investment, for the country. The editorial did praise her for suggesting that ASEAN consider kicking out Burma.
•Audio of the BBC's interview with Clinton last week is posted online.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton will be in the spotlight, literally, this Sunday morning. Back from Asia, she'll be on NBC's Meet the Press for the entire hour!
•Speaking of the spotlight, a New York Times headline today declares: "Asia Trip Propels Clinton Back into Limelight." (And yes, I know that many of you say she never ever was out of the limelight -- the "shadows" thing was all concocted.)
•Clinton has just "taken Asia by storm" with a tour that is "undeniably a success in public-relations and policy terms," a college professor writes in a Scripps Howard News Service op-ed.
•Clinton is viewed as the most intelligent first lady in a Harris Poll that asked about 11 first ladies from Eleanor Roosevelt through Michelle Obama (minus Elizabeth Truman and Mamie Eisenhower for some reason). Regarding the 11 first ladies, 29 percent of respondents said Clinton was most intelligent; Roosevelt was second with 13 percent, and Obama was third with 11 percent.
•Regarding this week's verbal jousting between Clinton and North Korea, a Washington Post Style article compares Clinton to the archetypal schoolyard "overachiever" and North Korea to the schoolyard's "socially inept loner."
•Hillary fans aren't going to like this one: A Boston Globe editorial accuses Clinton of "rookie mistakes" during her Asia trip.
Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
I'm "speed-blogging" once again with a quick roundup of Hillary news:
•Two days after Secretary Clinton compared North Korea's leaders to "unruly teenagers," the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping." (Really? North Korean schoolgirls wear pantsuits?)
•Israel's intelligence agencies minister has criticized Clinton for saying that the United States is considering extending a "defense umbrella" over the Persian Gulf region to deter Iran.
•ASEAN has rejected Clinton's suggestion that it should kick Burma out of the regional organization if it doesn't free Aung San Suu Kyi.
•When asked about her presidential ambitions in a TV interview, Clinton said, "I doubt very much that anything like that will ever be part of my life."
Photo: ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
Once again, I only have time to offer a quick roundup of Hillary Clinton news. I've been ordered to prioritize copy-editing articles for the print edition of FP, so unfortunately Madam Secretary is "lite" today.
•"The United States is back," Clinton said upon arrival in Thailand for the ASEAN meeting in Phuket. "I believe strongly the United States has to be involved in this region," she declared, referring to Asia.
•Clinton suggested that the United States is considering extending a "defense umbrella" over the Persian Gulf region to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions.
•Clinton urged Burma to release democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, saying it would pave the way for a better U.S.-Burma relationship, including investments.
•Clinton is expected to be made special envoy to Northern Ireland.
•A Hillary Clinton effigy was burned in India in protest of the frisking of a former Indian president by Continental Airlines. (How ridiculous!)
Photo: BAZUKI MUHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has arrived in Thailand for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Above, she speaks during a news conference with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu in Bangkok.
Due to time constraints, today I've just got a quick summary of recent Clinton news:
•Clinton is worried about military ties between Burma and North Korea.
•Clinton and India's external affairs minister signed a deal that will allow India to buy sophisticated U.S. weapons.
•Clinton said the U.S. government is doing all it can to rescue captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
•A federal judge has dismissed a 13-year-old lawsuit -- "Filegate" -- against Clinton.
Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.